By Gina Capellazzi, website administrator
Photo by Robin Ritoss
Bradie Tennell delivered a nearly-perfect free skate to “Cinderella” to win her first senior U.S. title in front of a packed crowd at the SAP Center in San Jose, California January 5. The 19-year-old, who had surprised many when she took home the bronze medal at Skate America in November, had only one mistake in her free skate at the U.S. Championships, which was an underrotation call on her double axel. Winning the free skate with a score of 145.72, Tennell finished with an overall score of 219.51 points.
“Going into it I could really feel the intensity of the arena and all the energy, and I knew I had to just rely on my training, and I did, and I’m really happy with how I skated,” Tennell told the media following the free skate.
Before the start of the season, most skating fans did not know who Tennell was. Winning the junior title in 2015, Tennell finished sixth in her first senior Nationals in 2016 and finished 9th last year in Kansas City. She started the season winning the Philadelphia Summer International and just missed the podium at Lombardia Trophy, finishing in 4th less than two points behind Italy’s Carolina Kostner. Her consistancy so early in the season caught the attention of U.S. Figure Skating and they named Tennell as their host pick for Skate America.
“It’s been kind of a long journey over the past two years, I’ve been injured. I was out for a total of six months between the past two years. Going into this year my main goal was to stay healthy. I knew it was an Olympic year, and I knew that somebody has to go, so I just kind of kept it in the back of my mind all season, and just tried to put out programs and rely on my training,” said Tennell.
Finishing behind Tennell and also delivering her best free skate all season was Mirai Nagasu. Four years ago, with an Olympic spot on the line, the 2010 Olympian and U.S. Champion finished at the U.S. Championships in third place and was expecting to be named to her second Olympic team. Her Olympic dreams were crushed when she was left of the team in place of Wagner. On Friday at the SAP Center, Nagasu laid it all on the line and delivered an emotional performance, this time with tears of joy knowing she had done the very best to show the Olympic Committee she deserved to be on the team. Nagasu finished in second with a free skate score of 140.75 and a total score of 213.84.
“Wow. I’m usually not one to be at a loss for words. I am super happy with how things have gone. With mistakes, I scored the highest that I’ve scored in a U.S. Championships, and right now I’m super proud of myself,” Nagasu said.
Finishing behind Nagasu and claiming the bronze medal was 2017 U.S. Champion Karen Chen. Chen finished with a free skate score of 129.11 and an overall score of 198.59. She received two under-rotations, edge under-rotation and a downgrade, but received a higher program component score.
In the media conference following the free skate, Chen said she had caught a virus after the short program and wasn’t able to sleep that night. She spent much of the next day in bed and sought advice from her sports psychologist and visited her acupuncturist.
“I am extremely proud of what I got done tonight. I was actually very sick yesterday. I must’ve caught a virus. I was stuck in bed all day and couldn’t do my practices. I spent the whole day with the doctor, one after another, I was in so much pain and I was extremely worried because I wanted to feel 100% today and be able to skate my absolute best with no regrets. But I really took the day to focus on my mental health, visualize the perfect skate and focus on the positives, and just keep pulling the positive energy out of myself,” Chen said.
Three-time U.S. Champion and 2016 World silver medalist Ashley Wagner finished off the podium in fourth place with a free skate score of 130.25(which was higher than Chen’s), and a overall score 196.19. Wagner debuted her “La La Land” program at the U.S. Championship and received only one under-rotation. However, Wagner did not receive the higher program component score that she expected.
“I’m furious. I am absolutely furious. I know when I go and I lay it down, and absolutely I left one jump on the table, but for me to put out the two programs that I did at this competition, as solid as I skated, and to get those scores, I am furious, and I think deservedly so,” Wagner told the media.
For the second time, Wagner finds herself in fourth place at the U.S. Championships in an Olympic year. In 2014, she was named to the Olympic team despite finishing fourth. When asked if the Olympic Committee should name her to the 2018 Olympic team, Wagner told the media “yes”.
“Judging is judging,” Wagner said. “I’m in a performance-based sport and it’s an opinion-based sport, so for me, there’s no bitter taste. Whatever happens from this event, I delivered this program and I’m proud of what I did and I have no doubts. I don’t feel like I really left anything out there that I could’ve actively changed.”
The 2018 Olympic team for the ladies will be announced Saturday January 6 at 8am EST.