Featured Artist: Amy Liu

Amy Liu’s ice skating journey began almost 14 years ago in China. Her consistent determination and eagerness to succeed has allowed her to become one of the top skaters in the United States.

Dressed in a bedazzled, flowing dress with dramatic, swan-like eye makeup, Amy Liu steps onto the ice as the San Francisco Ice Theater team is called onto the ice rink to perform. The cold air brushes against her powdered cheeks as the music begins, the soft tune of Swan Lake filling the arena. Emotion radiates from skater to skater, rising and falling to the music. When the last note is played, the only things left on the ice are the ruby red petals from airborne roses. “We were placed low at worlds in April,” Liu said. “But then, after making a whole new program within two months, we won [nationals] and surprised everyone.”   

Liu began her figure skating journey at four years old while she was living in China. By the time she was eight years old, Liu was skating competitively under the Chinese Olympic Team. The team was highly competitive and, in figure skating, presentation is just as important as the technical skills involved. Liu recalls that the team promoted unhealthy habits in order for the members to meet the body image and skill level expected by the coaches in an attempt to win at all costs. “There were a lot of eating disorder problems, the coaches were not nice and there was a lot of pressure there to be the ‘next sprout’ that’s going to revitalize figure skating,” Liu said. 

After seven years with the Chinese national team, Liu and her family moved to Palo Alto, California where she resumed her figure skating career. She now participates in three different forms of ice skating: traditional figure skating, solo ice dance and theatre on ice. Liu has national and worldwide titles in all three forms of ice skating, including placing 6th in the 2019 Nations Cup in France, as well as winning at the 2017 US National competition with her theatre on ice team. Even after moving, Liu found that participating in a sport where one’s appearance, make-up and ability to convey emotions are pinpointed and judged can cause the athletes to have an increase in insecurities. “I believe every single athlete has insecurities,” Liu said. “For me, I didn’t fit the single type of image for figure skating and that was always really hard for me.”

Liu has overcome adversity, defying the unhealthy body standards that ice skating promotes. Many ice skaters suffer from many eating disorders to try and fit the expectations but still, Liu managed to stay true to herself. “I powered through my obstacles and that’s out of the norm,” Liu said. “I feel good about that.”

To become an experienced skater, Liu has had to dedicate a great deal of time in order to reach her potential, but her connection with the ice has allowed her to enjoy the sport even through hard times. “Once I step onto the ice it’s refreshing, it’s therapeutic, it’s like I empty my mindset and I focus on skating,” Liu said. “It’s a place where I can dump all of my problems and just skate.” 

While figure skating is often a solo endeavor, one of the most important attributes of a successful figure skater is the ability to work well with a team. The camaraderie and relationships between teammates is oftentimes a key factor in the success of any sports group. Naturally, this translates into figure skating, whether the routine is a group or solo endeavor. “If you’re waking up at four in the morning every single day, you are going to develop really true relationships,” Liu said. “You’re with your teammates day and night and you get to see different parts of yourself that you couldn’t necessarily see with your school friends.” 

Success through positive encouragement between teammates has become apparent to Liu. She notices the effect it has and works to lift up her teammates in every practice and competition. “I would say from the amount of time we spend together, you can see our off days and our good days. You get to see each other improve and have setbacks and you are still always there for each other,” Liu said. “Yes, I compete against my best friends, but that doesn’t really change us because there may be competitiveness, but there isn’t tension.” 

Not only does Liu have her teammates and coaches to guide and teach her, but she is constantly learning from those who she looks up to and is inspired by. “There were always people in my club who were older than me and were my role models on the ice,” Liu said. “Just seeing how much they persevered and continuously practiced and worked hard made me want to do everything like them.” 

Despite her success as a figure skater, Liu is uncertain of her future in the art.“I want to go to a four year [college],” Liu said. “I want to go to a big city [and] I want to study medicine, which is very different from figure skating.” While her future goals might not encompass a figure skating career, Liu wants to continue to pursue the art and potentially end up teaching and coaching alongside whichever profession she chooses. 

Liu has been skating for most of her life, watching herself and her friends grow into the artists and performers they are today. “You can see how the sport really changes people for the better,” Liu said. Ice skating is not for the faint of heart or uninspired, and Liu has persevered through many obstacles and setbacks to bring her to the level she is at today. While she may not continue to skate as rigorously as she has for the past years, it is an experience that has made her a better person and sets her apart from many.

“Figure skating was the only thing that has always been constant, and I think that shows that my love for figure skating overpowers the difficulties of it,” Liu said. “I could have stopped multiple times but I didn’t; I always chose to stick with figure skating because it was always there for me.”