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At first branded ‘Ms. Consistency,’ Bradie Tennell’s jumps lately have been more inconsistent

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DETROIT – Bradie Tennell’s rise from near obscurity to the leading U.S. women’s skater last season was built on consistency that matched her never-miss-a-day work ethic.

Going into the individual competition at the 2018 Olympics, Tennell had flawlessly landed 31 of her 32 triple jumps in major competitions last season.

Then she fell on the second jump of her combination in the Olympic short program.

And her jumping has been surprisingly inconsistent since.

In Tennell’s seven national and international competitions beginning with the 2018 Olympics, fewer than two-thirds (43 of 69) of her triple jumps or combinations with triple jumps have resulted in a positive Grade of Execution.

Many of the negatives have come from under-rotation calls, as the International Skating Union cracked down on under-rotated jumps this season. Eighteen of her 26 negative GOEs have involved under-rotations.

The calls have frustrated her coaches, Denise Myers and Jeremy Allen, who feel after watching slow-motion video of the jumps in question that the negatives are, well, uncalled for.

“Obviously, you don’t want to get those calls,” Tennell said. “All you can do is take the lesson learned and move on.”

At the 2019 U.S. Championships, in which she finished second to Alysa Liu, Tennell won Thursday’s short program with one of just two clean programs she has done among her 14 this season. (The other was in her previous competition, Golden Spin of Zagreb.)

The Friday free skate, in which she finished fourth, included a botched landing on the second jump of a triple Lutz, triple loop combination and a fall on the under-rotated triple Lutz that was to open a second triple-triple combination.

Bradie Tennell falls on a jump during her performance during her women’s free skate program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“What we do out there is really hard and we’re only human,” Tennell said.

Myers felt the emphasis Tennell has been putting on the artistic side and artistic complexity of her skating this season may, in the short term, have contributed to lesser jump consistency.

“We want to focus on the growth Bradie has made artistically over the past season,” Myers said Saturday. “If you look at her transitions in and out of each element, I know you must see it [the growth]. It’s a process.”

Tennell, 20, has repeatedly insisted this season that she does not feel extra pressure from her suddenly acquired status as best in the U.S.

“It has never crossed my mind that I’m the woman to beat,” she said earlier this month. “I don’t think of things in terms like that. Every time I go out on the ice, I want to do the best for myself.”

MORE: Alysa Liu is the “future of U.S. ladies’ skating,” according to Tara Lipinski

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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MORE: Dressel recalls summer tears in Golden Goggles speech

Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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