The Newbie, The Veteran, and The Defending Champion Take Lead in Ladies Short Program
by Carly Gold
(4 January 2017) An exciting Senior Ladies short program took place Wednesday night at the SAP arena. After the short, breakout superstar Bradie Tennell is in first with a career best score of 73.79. The youngster from Carpentersville, Illinois skated a lights-out performance to Lee Dong-jun’s “Taeguki”, highlighted by a triple-Lutz triple toe combination that scored a whopping 12.10 points with GOE. In addition to her nearly flawless execution of each jumping pass, her skating skills and spins stood out against her competitors. Her score not only came out on top tonight, but also set a new record for highest short program score in U.S. Championship Ladies history.
“I’m very happy with how my performance went today. I feel like it went exactly how I practiced it,” Tennell said in the post-competition press conference.
Tennell placed third earlier this season at Skate America, setting herself in contention for the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. When asked if her expectations qualifying for the Olympics changed after her surprising success on the Grand Prix, Tennell responded with, “My mindset about the Olympics has never really changed. It’s always been in the back of my mind, but don’t focus on it because that can be a little bit overwhelming.”
Tennell will skate last in Friday’s free skate, which will most certainly be an event to watch this week.
A veteran of the Senior Ladies event, Mirai Nagasu trails Tennell by just 0.7 points. She stood up on a clean triple axel, although a slight over-rotation and two-foot on the landing docked 2.14 points off the base value of the elusive jump. Nagasu followed up with a stunning triple-flip triple-toe combination and triple loop. The 24-year-old closed out her Chopin program with an exquisite level 4 layback, receiving all 2s and 3s in GOE. Mirai was rewarded with the highest technical score of the night with 41.90 points.
In the press conference, Mirai stated, “I feel really great about how things have gone, and I think being here in second is a repeat of last year. But I’ve been practicing to fight in the free program.” After placing 3rd in the 2014 U.S. Championships but being left off the Olympics team, it would be really great to see her come back this cycle and qualify for her second Games. With a triple axel also planned in her free skate, her chances look good if she delivers a strong performance.
“I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been working on. Today I over-rotated my triple axel a little, but I know I’m very capable of it, and I can’t wait to pull it out in the long.”
Karen Chen, the 2017 reigning U.S. Champion, sits in third with 69.48 points. Her “On Golden Pond” performance began with a slight misstep on a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, with the triple toe called under-rotated and a step out on the landing. She recovered nicely with a lovely triple loop and double Axel. Her final level 4 layback closed out the masterpiece that is her short, gaining mostly 3s in GOE.
“I’m overall pretty pleased with how everything went…but definitely there were some little mistakes and things I can fix for the long program.”
Her performance tonight was a season’s best for Chen after a rocky Grand Prix series, which involved scrapping her initial short program and returning to last season’s. In addition to her short, Chen also returned to her last season’s free program. “I ended up coming back to this short program and this long program, because I felt like it was something that I was very comfortable with, and it something that I really loved and I know works for me.”
Placing fourth with 67.00 points is Angela Wang, who performed a perfect program to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. As a skater who has never placed higher than 7th at the Championships, it was a lovely surprise. Her triple flip-triple toe loop was one of the strongest of the event, gaining 1.30 points in GOE. Wang will skate 19th in the free skate event.
Another surprise in the results was Ashley Wagner, who sits in a disappointing 5th place with 65.94 points. She had difficulty with her opening triple flip-triple toe loop combination during her crowd favorite “Hip Hip Chin Chin” program in which the triple toe was called under-rotated. She recovered with a solid triple loop and double axel, but it wasn’t enough to keep her in the top three going into the free skate. She’s less than three points out of third, but will need to bring her A-game on Friday to have a chance at qualifying for her second Olympics.
Polina Edmunds, a 2014 Olympian, was first to skate in the event and performed cleanly, but didn’t attempt the more difficult jumps seen from top competitors in this event. She goes into the free skate in 7th with 63.78 points.