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2022 Nationals: Senior Women

by Liz Leamy



Bell Triumphs to Claim U.S. Women's Crown

It was a night of thrills, memories and golden moments at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville as the country’s premier women battled it out in hopes of earning some coveted hardware and also an opportunity to make the U.S. Olympic team.

On the night of this event, the involvement of the thousands of spectators in attendance overcame of the nervousness, fear and uncertainty over the pandemic, as they clapped, cheered on and gave standing ovations to the top ladies U.S. skaters battling it out against one another on the ice.

The rapport between the competitors and the crowd made this night magical, as virtually all of the athletes, dressed in stunning costumes, skated fantastic programs to compelling themes that featured all of the triple jumps, artful spins and great footwork.

Notably, the themes and music used by this talented group of premier U.S. skaters were compelling and seemed to resonate strongly with the crowd.

Some of the music, storylines and soundtracks were from such smash films, Broadway shows and television programs as ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ ‘Turandot,’ ‘James Bond,’ ‘La La Land,’ ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘My Immortal,’ (Beethoven’s story), among others, which the audience seemed to love.

In the end, Mariah Bell, the three-time U.S. medalist, claimed the U.S. crown with a high-octane and moving free skate program to ‘Hallelujah’ by K.D. Lang for which she scored a 140.70 that resulted in the highest total of the night, a 216.25.

Bell, who is always incredible to watch in person, flew around the ice at supersonic speeds and accelerated into all of her jumps that were defined by attack, height and high energy.

In her program, Bell reeled off a triple flip-double toe loop, triple loop, triple Salchow, double Axel, triple flip-double toe loop-double toe loop, triple Lutz-hop-double Axel and triple Lutz and as well as some of the fastest spins of the entire U.S. Championship competition.

As Bell, who was first in the short, knocked out each element during her program, the crowd cheered in loud and booming fashion, with everyone in the arena rising to their feet at its conclusion.

“I decided I was not going to hold back this year,” said Bell. “I’m really proud of myself for reaching this goal.”

Meanwhile, Bell’s victory marked the first time ever she has clinched a U.S. championship title, something she was clearly excited about.

“I’m very excited to finally be a National champion,” said Bell. “I really fought for every point and the audience was so incredible.”

Bell also elaborated on how much this program has meant to her.

“I just love this program and have such a connection to it right from when the music starts,” said Bell. “It’s truly something I love training.”

Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion, scored silver with her compelling free skate to ‘Butterfly Lover Concerto’ by Takako Nishizaki for which she was awarded a 139.30 and 213.85 total.

Chen, wearing a light purple and white dress, executed a double Axel-triple toe loop (of which the second jump was marked as under-rotated), triple flip, triple Salchow, triple loop, triple Lutz-double toe loop-double loop, triple Lutz and triple loop-double toe loop (the second of which she double footed the landing and received some minus grade of execution marks), all of which drew audible cheers from the crowd.

Chen, who was second in the short, also did a spectacular spiral and Ina Bauer as well as spins in which she seemed to increase her speed with every revolution, making them as much a spectacle as her jumps.

“I just tried to stay focused on delivering my performances,” said Chen. “[Today] definitely was not easy and I had to constantly bring myself back into the moment. I’m thankful to be able to compete.”

Isabeau Levito, another stunner at this competition, captured the bronze medal and pulled up from fourth in the short to third overall with a classically charged ‘Russian Dance’ program for which she was awarded a 139.75 and 210.75 total score.

This sensational ballet-inspired program featured leaps, positions and many moments that emanated of a George Balanchine-designed piece at Lincoln Center in New York City.

In addition to her superb array of spirals, attitudes, Ina Bauers and split jumps, Levito executed two soaring double Axels, a triple Lutz, triple loop, triple flip-triple toe loop, triple Lutz-half loop-triple Salchow (the second of which was marked as under-rotated) and a triple flip-double toe, among other memorable things.

Levito also did some beautiful spins defined by incredible extension and artful positions, which also went over big with onlookers.

At the conclusion of her program, Levito received a standing ovation that she said was extremely heartwarming for her. 

“It gave me a great sense of warmth and happiness to see how people like what I’m doing,” said Levito, the 2021 U.S. junior champion. “It was a very happy moment for me.”

Levito also said competing as a senior this year at the U.S. Championships was something she has always strived for and didn’t fully register with her until the completion had nearly concluded.

“I really didn’t realize [the realness of everything] until I went on the ice for the medal ceremony and did my bow,” said Levito. “I’m excited because my goal was to medal and here I am.”

Gabriella Vizzo pulled up to fourth after finishing seventh in the short with a spellbinding program to ‘Sunset Boulevard’ for which she scored a 120.60 for a 188.11 total.

Vizzo, in telling the fascinating and heart wrenching story of Norma Desmond, the silent movie star character gone mad, drew the audience in with remarkable speed, artistry and powerful jumps, including a double Axel-triple toe loop, triple flip-double toe loop, triple Lutz-double toe loop, triple loop and double Axel.