by Liz Leamy
(18 January 2019) Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. Champion, Mariah Bell, the 2017 U.S. Bronze Medalist, Starr Andrews, the 2017 U.S. Junior Silver Medalist, Alysa Liu, the 2018 U.S. Junior Champion, Courtney Hicks, a two-time ISU Championship Grand Prix medalist and America’s other top-seeded ladies ought to stage a memorable competition at the 2019 Geico U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which will kick off on Thursday, January 18th and run through Sunday, January 27th in Detroit, Michigan. The Ladies event will begin Friday, the 25th.
This competition, which will be held at the Little Caesars Arena in Downtown Detroit on Thursday and Friday, the 24th and 25th, will see Tennell attempting defending her title for the first time, against strong competition from Bell, Andrews and Liu. This being the first Nationals to usher in the four-year 2022 Olympic cycle, this ladies competition, which will feature a roster of fresh faces as well as a host of rock-solid longtime senior contenders, should be one for the books, for various reasons.
Leading this brigade is Bradie Tennell, the powerful 20 year-old from Winfield, Illinois who made major inroads on the national and international skating scene last season when she pulled off a bronze-medal finish at 2017 Skate America, scored the 2018 U.S. title, after having finished ninth in the same event the year prior, and made the 2018 Olympics, where she placed ninth.
According to Tennell, her training has been going well leading up to this event.
“I’ve been going through the daily grind,” said
Tennell. “Every time I go out on the ice I want to do the best for
myself and as long as I do that, I’ll be happy.”
In regard to her skating, Tennell said she has gotten a great deal of support from her friends, family and the people in her community.
“[Everyone in the] community has been really supportive. It’s been great,” said Tennell, who coaches all levels of skaters. “I love bringing attention to the sport itself and it always makes my day to see a kid on the ice for the first or second time.”
Then there is Mariah Bell, 22, who finished 12th in 2017 and 2018, who trains with Rafael Arutyunyan in Artesia, California. Known for her high triples and artful spins, Bell seems as determined as ever to put out two solid performances, with her sights set on both making the World Team and building toward the 2022 Olympics.
“It’s been a pretty steady climb which has been really exciting,” said Bell. “I want to be [a top player especially] going into these next Olympics and that’s very exciting.”
This season, Bell is skating to ‘To Love You More,’ sung by Celine Dion and choreographed by Adam Rippon and ‘Divenire’ and ‘Experience’ by Ludovico Einaudi for the free skate.
For Bell, it’s all about building from the momentum she’s been able to so far establish.
“You start gaining momentum and building confidence throughout the season,” said Bell. “I’m looking forward to continuing that the next few weeks.”
Another strong contender is Andrews, who is known for her outstanding spin and jump technique and whose arresting short program to ‘Porgy and Bess’ this season has been a real showstopper so far.
Then there is Alysa Liu, the electric 13 year-old jumping jack from California who clinched the U.S. Junior title last season with a full arsenal of excellent quick-turning triples.
At this event, Liu is planning to execute a total of three triple Axels in her short and long programs, which will definitely make this one heck of a good competition.
Meanwhile, Courtney Hicks, who is known to be one of the sport’s big jumping powerhouses, along with the others on the ladies roster also have their sights set on making the U.S. Championship podium.
As always, time will reveal how the leaderboard will look, at least for this season moving forward to 2022.