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2018 Nationals: Senior Ladies Free Skate

by Carly Gold


A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: Tennell Wins U.S. Ladies Title

(6 January 2018)  The SAP Center was absolutely electrified Friday night for the ladies free skate event, with the last three skaters of the night performing near-perfect programs.

Short program leader Bradie Tennell, who performed last, skated lights-out and captured the 2018 U.S. Ladies Title. Tennell followed Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen consecutively, both of which received standing ovations from the crowd. Tennell proved her consistency and ability to perform under pressure, something the U.S. ladies have struggled with in the past. She captured her first U.S. Championships title with a total score of 219.51.

“Going into (my free skate), 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. I’m really happy with how I skated,” Tennell said of her performance.

Tennell soared through her “Cinderella” performance landing seven triples, including a triple- Lutz-triple toe loop with plus 2s and 3s in GOE. Her only error was on her double Axel-triple toe loop combination, in which her double Axel was called under-rotated. She gained all level fours on her spins and step sequence, and earned a score of 145.72 points for the free program.

Tennell felt a special connection to her fairytale free skate this season. “I always loved Cinderella since I was two years old,” said Tennell in the press conference. “At three, my mom made me a Halloween costume, a Cinderella dress. When the movie came out, I probably watched it 10 times. It never gets old. I actually watched it on the plane here.”

Tennell was a surprise frontrunner of these Championships, as she did not become a potential contender for the title until capturing bronze at Skate America six weeks prior. Her focus and grit is admirable. Being thrust into the spotlight as rapidly as she was would cause many skaters to crumble under the pressure.

“I’ve always loved the challenge, I’m not one to back down from something that’s hard,” Tennell said. “I always enjoy performing, especially this (free) program, it’s very close to my heart. I think I just went out there and showed.”

Tennell’s fairytale continues this season. Saturday morning, Bradie was named to the 2018 Olympics team. What an impressive ascension to stardom for this 19-year-old!

Mirai Nagasu is the 2018 U.S. Ladies silver medalist. She continued her hot streak in the short to skate a near-perfect performance to sections from “Miss Saigon”. Nagasu made the same mistake on the triple Axel in the free and she did in the short program, over-rotating slightly and stepping out of the jump. It didn’t throw her concentration, and she went on to land a triple-flip triple-toe loop combination and four other clean triples. Each spin was performed exceptionally well, and earned level 4s. Her triple-Lutz was the only jump to be called under-rotated.

“I’m super happy with how things have gone. With mistakes, I’ve scored the highest I have at the U.S. Championships. Right now, I’m super proud of myself,” Nagasu said.

The 2008 U.S. Champion scored 140.75 for her free skate en-route to a total score of 213.84 points.

“I think tonight I went into this performance not expecting myself to be perfect. I made that mistake last year. I was training strong, probably not as strong as this year, but I was fully capable of doing what I did tonight last year,” Nagasu stated. “Tonight, I was prepared to make those mistakes and work around them. I knew I wanted to be tired at the end of the night and to push through it, and that’s exactly what I did.”

This cycle, Mirai earned her Olympic spot with no controversy. To come back after 2014 and skate the way she did, she deserves every ounce of success this year. The 2018 Olympic games will be Nagasu’s second appearance at the Games. In 2010, she placed 4th.

2017 U.S. Champion Karen Chen fought through her free program to deliver a strong skate and place fourth in the free skate and third overall. She stayed on her feet in her 129.11-point performance, but her protocol was scattered with under-rotations and a downgrade on her final triple Salchow. She earned a total score of 198.59 points.

In the press conference, Chen stated that she had been feeling ill the day prior.

“Yesterday I was unable to practice and was really sick, stuck in bed. I caught a virus or something. I couldn’t sleep after the short. I was up all night in a lot of discomfort, and all morning (yesterday) I had body aches and pains.”

Chen was selected for the final spot for the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. After a rocky season, it was good to see her fight through this competition to earn her spot on the team.

Ashley Wagner delivered a strong performance to sections for “La La Land”, but was unable to recover from her deficit in the short program. She finished fourth overall. She placed third in the free skate with a score of 130.25 points, and a total score of 196.19 points, just 2.5 points behind Chen.

Wagner was not happy with her score in the free skate, to say the least.

“I am absolutely furious. I know when I go and lay it down, and I absolutely left one jump on the table, but to put out the two programs that I did in this competition, as solidly as I skated, I am furious,” Wagner said in the mixed zone. “I am a performer and that second mark is not there.”

Wagner found herself in the same difficult position she did during the last Olympic cycle, only the odds were not in her favor this time around. She was named as first alternate to the 2018 Olympic team.