Audrey Lu (L) and Misha Mitrofanov of the United States compete during the Pair Free Skating at the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 13, 2021. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)
The rising star in U.S. pairs skating harbors an Olympic dream.
BEIJING, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Audrey Lu skated her last program in an ISU figure skating Grand Prix of the Olympic season at the Exhibition of the Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, Russia on Sunday, with her desire to skate as an Olympian in Beijing next February becoming ever more intense.
The 19-year-old American and her partner Misha Mitrofanov were just one step away from a podium finish at the sixth and last Grand Prix in Sochi, a result not good enough to qualify them for the final in Osaka, Japan from December 9 to 12. They came fifth at the NHK Trophy a fortnight ago.
"Audrey has been dreaming to compete in an Olympic Games since she was a little girl," Lu's mother told Xinhua via an online interview.
"She decorated a wall of her room with the Olympic rings with ropes she made and wrote under it -- 'Chase your dream'."
"The dream became even more vivid when it comes to Beijing 2022, as she was selected into the United States national team," added Mrs. Lu.
Born to Chinese parents in Dallas, Audrey Lu, known as Lu Yao in China, started figure skating at the age of four on the rink of a shopping mall in her neighborhood and didn't switch to pairs skating until May 2016.
Her coach Alexey Letov suggested that the 13-year-old Lu, who skated singles at that time with zero pairs experience, should team up with Mitrofanov, who was 18 and trained on the same rink.
Audrey Lu (front) and Misha Mitrofanov of the United States compete during the Pairs Short Program of the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 12, 2021. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)
In the next five and a half years, Lu and Mitrofanov made steady progress, as they won the 2018 Junior National Championships, finished fifth at the 2018 Junior Worlds, claimed a Grand Prix medal at the 2020 Skate America in their first senior season, and finished fourth at the 2021 U.S. Nationals.
"The Olympics are our mindset; that's where we want to go," 24-year-old Mitrofanov said last month.
"Obviously, it's in the back of our minds that it's the Olympic season. But we treat it like every other season," Lu echoed.
"We work hard every day and set goals for ourselves. And we slowly build up. When we get to the Nationals, we're all prepared, and we just show what we can do," she said.
As U.S. Figure Skating won just two pairs' berths to Beijing 2022 through the World Championships in Stockholm early this year, Lu and Mitrofanov have to vie for a place with fellow Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, the reigning national champions, and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc. Both of those pairs rank higher than Lu and Mitrofanov in the overall standings of this season's ISU Grand Prix series.
The coming 2022 U.S. Nationals might offer the last weight to help decide the country's Olympic roster eventually.
"I'll be thrilled if we're able to skate on the ice of Beijing 2022," said Lu, adding that an Olympic Games on Chinese soil will be extraordinarily meaningful for her, who speaks Chinese and began attending Chinese school at four years old.
"My last time in Beijing was when I was five years old, and the Great Wall impressed me the most," recalled Lu, whose idol is Michelle Kwan, the most successful American-born-Chinese figure skater in history.