US Olympic figure skater quits at 16 after being linked to DoJ spy case

Her family was given protection by the US State Department during their trip to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics

Graig Graziosi
Monday 11 April 2022 18:06 BST
Related video: Chinese secret police targeted US congressional candidate and Olympian, DOJ says

A figure skating prodigy has retired at the age of 16, just a month after it was revealed her family had allegedly been targeted by Chinese spies operating in the US.

Insider reports that Alysa Liu, widely considered among the most talented skaters in the US, announced her retirement on Instagram on Saturday.

The Olympian said she had reached all of her goals and that she was "satisfied" with her career.

"I started skating when I was 5 so that's about 11 years on the ice and it's been an insane 11 years. A lot of good and a lot of bad but yk [you know] that's just how it is. I've made so many friends, and so so sooo many good memories that I'll have for the rest of my life," she wrote in her announcement.

She said her "skating thing has taught me a lot more about life than I anticipated" and that she was "really glad I skated”.

It is unclear if Ms Liu's retirement is related to her family's brush with alleged Chinese spies.

The skater's father, Arthur Liu, revealed to the Associated Press last month that he was one of the unnamed "dissidents" in a Justice Department case against alleged agents of the Chinese government.

The Justice Department has accused five men of stalking and harassing Chinese dissidents living in the US on Beijing's orders. Mr Liu – who came to the US in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square massacre – said he was "Dissident 3."

The FBI informed him he had been targeted by the plot in October 2021, but Mr Liu chose not to tell his daughter about the potential threat over fears it would distract or dissuade her from pursuing her goals.

“We believed Alysa had a very good chance of making the Olympic team and truly were very scared,”he told the AP.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the outlet he was unaware of the "specifics" of the spying allegations and accused the US of "slandering by making an issue of this out of thin air”.

“China always asks Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of host countries, and we would never ask our citizens to engage in activities that violate local laws,” Mr Zhao said.

A month later, a man claiming to be an Olympic official called him to ask for his daughter's passport numbers. Mr Liu said he declined to provide the information, and later learned via the Justice Department that the man who made the call was one of the accused spies, Matthew Ziburis. Mr Ziburis is a former body guard and Florida prison officer.

“I didn’t feel good about it. I felt something fishy was going on,” Mr Liu said. “From my dealings with the U.S. Figure Skating association, they would never call me on the phone to get copies of our passports. I really cut it short once I realized what he was asking for.”

During the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the US government provided security for Ms Liu while for the duration of her stay in China.

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