by Liz Leamy
(14 January 2021) Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. titlist, 2019 U.S. silver medalist and 2020 U.S. third-place finisher, boldly claimed the lead among this year’s 17-member field of top American ladies in the short program with a masterful take on Florence and the Machine’s ‘Moderation’ for which she earned a historic 79.40, the highest score any entrant in this discipline has ever earned at a U.S. Championships.
Right from the jump, it was clear Tennell was on a mission as she reeled off a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip and double Axel with the ease, skill and mastery of a seasoned world-class contender.
For Tennell, 22, who hails from Cary, Illinois, the night was all about having the opportunity to get out on the ice and perform.
“I’m really happy with the way I skated,” said Tennell, who trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek, the well-known World and Olympic coach. “I just love skating and performing and I’m just so happy to be here.”
According to Tennell, this performance wound up being a benchmark moment for her as she described it in the post-competition press conference as one of the most memorable and relaxed experiences she has ever had in any competition to date.
“I was having so much fun and I think it was the most relaxed I’ve been at any competition so far,” said Tennell. “From the first note, I was in the performance. The music just took me and it flowed.”
Tennell said she is looking forward to competing in the long program on Friday night.
“I’ve trained so hard for this and all of the work is already done,” said Tennell. “I’m grateful I’m able to be here and compete.”
Alysa Liu, the 2019 and 2020 U.S. champion, rocketed into second place with a lively and entertaining program to the ‘La Strada’ film soundtrack by Nino Rota for which she scored a 76.36.
Liu, a Richmond, California native, opened up with a soaring double Axel then followed it up with a terrific triple flip, solid triple Lutz-triple toe and fast, well positioned spins, all of which helped her earn high technical scores.
For the sparkling Liu, who has undergone a major season of change due to the fact that she has grown more than three inches over the past year and made a coaching change from her longtime teacher, Laura Lepitsky to work with Lee Barkell and Lori Nichol, this foray wound up being a successful one in all regards.
“All I wanted to do was a solid program and I was really happy,” said Liu, 15. “I was looking forward to competing all season.”
For this determined and laser-focused athlete, it’s all about being her best.
“I’m not thinking about placements, I’m just thinking about doing my best,” said Liu. “For now I’m just focusing on the actual program.”
Mariah Bell, the effervescent 24 year-old Westminster, Colorado native who scored silver at the 2020 U.S. Championships, scored third with a 72.37 in the standings for her riveting and emotional program to Pink’s ‘Glitter in the Air.’
Bell, who trains in Irvine, California with Rafael Arutyunyan and Adam Rippon, the esteemed 2018 U.S. Olympian, flew around the rink with the ease and expertise of a top-level global contender and reeled off such notable elements as a triple flip-triple toe loop, double Axel, flying sit, layback and camel-catchfoot-back sit combination spin with fluidity and strength.
Bell had a slight wobble on the landing of her triple Lutz, however, rendering her a negative .83 for grade of execution scores for that particular element.
“I’m really proud of what I did,” said Bell. “I feel really prepared and just kind of rushed the Lutz.”
Going into the free skate, Bell is confident she will deliver the goods.
“Tomorrow I’ll make sure I go for everything,” said Bell. “I feel better and do better when I go for everything 100 percent.”
Karen Chen, the 21 year-old California native who trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her longtime coach Tammy Gambill, scored a 70.99 for her powerful program to Katy Perry’s ‘Rise.’
Wearing a sparkling gray dress, Chen was all about style, elegance and speed as she executed a big double Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe loop and triple loop, along with some elegant spins.