Calling 19-year-old Bradie Tennell a contender to make the Olympic team does not do her justice anymore. She performed like a favorite at Skate America this weekend.
In her senior Grand Prix debut, Tennell earned bronze in Lake Placid, N.Y., with 204.10 points, the highest score by a U.S. woman in international competition since the March 2016 World Championships.
“I was speechless,” Tennell said on NBC. “I still can’t believe it.
“I’m still shaking.”
She shared a podium with Japanese Satoko Miyahara (214.03) and Kaori Sakamoto (210.59).
Tennell, the 2015 U.S. junior champion, was ninth at last season’s senior nationals after reportedly being slowed by stress fractures in her lower back since May 2015.
She was still young enough for March’s junior worlds, where she was sent and finished seventh.
Tennell then impressed enough in a closed-door U.S. Figure Skating camp in August to earn the third and final American spot in the Skate America field.
“I haven’t been able to train consistently,” in past seasons, Tennell said. “This year, I’ve really been able to kind of get back into the flow of things. I feel like that’s shown in how I’m skating.”
She joined Ashley Wagner and Karen Chen, the top two U.S. women last season, in Lake Placid, openly questioning her confidence on this stage.
Unaccomplished. Unfazed. Tennell outperformed both U.S. champions (though Wagner withdrew during her free skate with an ankle injury, more on that here).
Tennell received positive grades of execution on all 15 of her jumps between two programs. With zero under rotations.
Her score is not Olympic medal caliber, but none of the U.S. women have impressed this season. Tennell is the top U.S. woman in the world rankings this season in 12th place.
The Olympic team will be chosen by a committee, based not only on nationals results but by performances in major competition from the last year.
“I did my job,” Tennell said. “I think I have [put myself in the Olympic conversation].”
If Tennell repeats her Skate America performances at U.S. Champs, even with a lack of senior international experience, she’s likely headed to PyeongChang.
Unthinkable even a few months ago.
“I’m just going to go there and do what I know how to do and, you know, let the chips fall where they may,” she said.
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Top U.S. women’s scores this season
Bradie Tennell — 204.10
Mirai Nagasu — 194.46
Mariah Bell — 188.56
Ashley Wagner — 183.94
Angela Wang — 183.85
Karen Chen — 182.80