by Liz Leamy
(2 January 2018) It's show time this week for Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion, Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. titlist, Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion, Bradie Tennell, the 2015 U.S. junior gold medalist, along with several other premiere American ladies, to score a coveted U.S. Olympic team spot at the U.S. Championships in San Jose.
Karen Chen, the talented Fremont, California native who trains in Riverside, California with Tammy Gambill, the 2017 recipient of the U.S. Figure Skating/Professional Skaters Association Coach of the Year Award, said training has been going well for her leading up to this event.
“I’m really happy with how everything is going,” said Chen, 18. “I think I am absolutely ready and am so thankful that so many people believe in my abilities.”
Chen, who shot to the pinnacle of U.S. Figure Skating’s formidable ladies field with her breathtaking ‘On Golden Pond’ short program at the 2017 U.S. Championships last season, will be using that same musical selection at this event, a choice she feels good about. For the free, Chen will be skating to ‘Jalousie Tango Tzigane’ by Jacob Gade.
“The programs are in my muscle memory [now] and feel so much more comfortable and easier [than ever],” said Chen. “I feel like these programs represent me the best.”
Wagner, 26, meanwhile, seems as determined as ever to claim her third U.S. title and a U.S. Olympic berth at this event.
Skating to the music ‘Hip Hip Chin Chin’ by Club des Belugas for the short and ‘La La Land’ for the free, Wagner can always be counted on to step up to the proverbial plate, especially when the stakes are at their highest, as they are at this celebrated competition.
Mirai Nagasu, 24, the 2008 Ladies Champion who trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado with Tom Zakrajsek, is another premiere athlete in the hunt for a U.S. medal as well as an Olympic team berth.
Skating to ‘Nocturne No. 20 in C Sharp Minor’ by Frederic Chopin in the short and ‘Miss Saigon’ in the free program segments of this competition (both of which were choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Canadian Olympic bronze medalist), Nagasu is planning a triple Axel in her jump arsenal at this event, which should add to the already highly anticipated drama of the ladies’ showdown.
Nagasu said she feels confident about her skating going into this event.
“This is the year where I really put my head down and worked hard,” said Nagasu in a pre-Nationals teleconference with reporters last week. “My goal is to go for everything and Nationals is always my favorite competition.”
Bradie Tennell, the lithe 19 year-old Chicago-area native who churned out one of the most exciting fairytale stories of the season this year so far with her bronze-medal finish at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America in Lake Placid last November, is another notable entry in this event.
Tennell, who executes her library of triple jumps with command, speed and strength, is as artistic as much as she is athletic and has the ability to skate away with a medal and a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Tennell resides in Carpentersville, Illinois and is coached by Denise Myers and Jeremy Allen. She will be skating to ‘Taegukgi’ by Le Dong-Jun for the short and ‘Cinderella’ by Patrick Doyle for the free skate segments of this competition.