by Liz Leamy
(15 January 2021) Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. titlist, once again proved herself the premiere American ladies skater at the U.S. Championships Friday night by knocking the ball right out of the park with a stunning free skate to ‘Sarajevo’ by Max Richter and ‘Dawn of Faith’ by Eternal Eclipse for which she earned a 153.21 and 232.61 total.
This laser-focused 22 year-old Chicago-area native, who had scored first in the short program with a seven-point lead, racked up high grade of execution scores for her lightning-quick and ever-solid jumps which included a triple Lutz-triple toe loop, triple loop, triple flip-double toe loop-double loop, triple Lutz-triple toe loop and two double Axels.
For this driven athlete, it was all about expressing her joy of skating out on the ice, a message that she clearly transmitted in both of her performances as well as at practices throughout this entire competition.
“I really enjoyed myself and that is what I’m most proud of,” said Tennell, who placed ninth at the 2018 Olympics and was second and third at the 2019 and 2020 U.S. Championships, respectively. “Honestly I was just having fun.”
Tennell also made sure to put trust in her training.
Since moving to Colorado Springs to work with Tom Zakrajsek last year, Tennell has been working as hard as ever to reach a whole new level as a performer, athlete and artist.
“I’ve done everything in my power to prepare for this competition. I’ve worked hard and knew I was ready,” said Tennell.
For Tennell, another motivating factor this year has been her focus on reclaiming the U.S. ladies title.
“Winning the title back means everything to me,” said Tennell. “It’s been the driving force behind everything.”
Admittedly, Tennell said winning the U.S. title again is something that is sweet in all regards.
“For me, it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the destination feels pretty good,” said Tennell.
Amber Glenn, the 21 year-old Plano, Texas native known for her outstanding jumps catapulted from fifth in the short program to second overall with her super-charged free skate.
Skating to ‘Rain In Your Black Eyes’ by Ezio Bosso, this blonde power-player racked up a 144.50 for a 215.33 total largely due to her technical arsenal which included a soaring triple flip-triple toe, triple flip, triple Lutz-double toe-double loop, triple loop-double toe and triple loop and two double Axels, among other impressive things.
Clearly delighted with her performance, Glenn gasped with surprise and excitement in the kiss and cry area upon learning of her scores, something that was gratifying to see.
For this candid athlete, scoring silver at Nationals is something that essentially has all stemmed from her joy and love for the sport, just like Tennell.
Interestingly, back in 2015, Glenn, then 15 years old, had decided to walk away from skating after having achieved a national competitive level citing that at that point, the sport was causing her too much anxiety and stress.
Six months down the road, after having had experienced the ‘normal’ life of a high school teenagedom, Glenn began to miss skating and made the decision to go back to the sport on entirely different terms.
“I didn’t see an ice rink for six months and went back to a normal life. It wasn’t enough for me and just felt there was something missing from my life when I didn’t have skating,” said Glenn. “I came back to skating with the idea of just loving it again and decided I was going to skate for my own happiness.”
For Glenn, winning silver at Nationals is something that is a dream come true.
“It was just a dream to get onto the podium one day,” said Glenn. “To be here five years later and have a National medal is amazing.”
Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion, clinched the bronze medal with her elegant performance to ‘Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto’ by Takako Nishizaki for which she scored a 143.99 and 214.98 total.
This talented and determined 21 year-old, who lives and trains in Colorado Springs, knocked out a triple Lutz, triple flip, triple Lutz-double toe-double loop and triple loop-double toe, among other elements that helped jump from fourth in the short program to third overall.
For Chen, her short and long program performances were all about showing all of her hard work leading up to this competition.
“I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity to show off all of the hard work I’ve been putting into training,” said Chen. “I’m happy with how things went tonight.”
Alysa Liu, the 15 year-old California native who famously clinched the 2019 and 2020 U.S. titles with her triple Axels and quads was fourth, moving down two spots from second place in the short program.
Liu, who trains in Oakland with Massimo Scali, Jeremy Abbott and Lee Barkell, among others, skated a high-charged program to ‘The Storm’ by Balazs Havasi designed by Lori Nichol for which she earned 137.03 and 213.39 total score.
In it, Liu snapped out an electric triple Lutz, triple loop, triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip and triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow (the latter of which was not fully marked) as well as high-velocity spins and other memorable elements.
Mariah Bell, the effervescent 24 year-old Westminster, Colorado native who is the 2020 U.S. silver medalist, scored 127.58 for her free skate program to fun Abba tunes and wound up fifth overall, moving slightly from third in the short.
Bell, a two-time U.S. bronze medalist, reeled off a triple Lutz, triple Salchow and double Axel with ease but missed her triple flip and also wobbled on the landing of a second triple flip and triple lutz-double toe-double loop, which affected her standing.
Still, this high-energy athlete was as fast, beautiful and powerful as ever.