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Bradie Tennell on her improved artistry this season

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Bradie Tennell finished with a silver medal behind 13-year-old Alysa Liu at this year’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January, just days before her 21st birthday.

Then in February, she placed fifth at the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim, Calif. Her next stop is the world championships in Saitama, Japan from March 18-24. The PyeongChang Olympian will look to improve on her sixth-place finish from the 2018 World Championships.

NBCSports spoke with Tennell in Detroit after nationals wrapped up about the surge in her popularity since winning the national title in 2018, her ability to sell the storylines in her programs this year, and one quirky fact about why she always wears her hair the same way during competition.

Have you started to settle into like the pace of the media requests? What’s that like?

Yes. I think it’s all becoming my new normal, which is great. I think last year with everything and how it went, it was kind of a shock to me. But now that I’m more used to it and I have more experience, I think I’m better equipped to handle it all. It’s still exciting, but I don’t think it’s as shocking.

How was it at first compared to how you deal with it now?

At first it was… it was a bit unnerving. But now I feel like it’s more… it’s become just a part of the job. It’s not something that I need to fret over any more.

How did you and your choreographer, Benoit Richaud, develop the free skate storyline to “Romeo and Juliet”?

He came to me after we chose the music and he’s like, ‘Look, this is what I see in the music. Do you agree?’ I was like ‘Yea, I think that’s amazing.’

At the beginning it’s mysterious: you meet this guy at a ball and you fall in love. Then, the slow part is the tragedy where you find him on the floor. The part right before my steps, you find your love who’s dead on the floor. That part is so raw.

The ending is when Juliet is gonna take her own life. That’s when I do all the weird stuff with the dagger – which I personally love. I think it’s so inventive and so cool. I really felt like having that whole story from the very beginning really helped me in the artistry department this year.

You had said before nationals that one of your goals was to display your artistry. Did you meet that goal?

I did. I’m extremely happy with how I performed the programs in terms of the artistic side. Especially my short program. I kinda struggled to connect with that a little bit all season… I wouldn’t say struggle to connect with it. I think I’ve had a pretty good connection. I think I just struggled a little bit to show it. I think this time I really did that well here. Of course, the couple little mistakes in the long, I’m disappointed in those. But I’m very happy with the way that I performed it.

Changing topics: one of the things I read about you is that you always compete with your hair in a bun because it’s so long.

Yes. It’s not quite as long as it used to be any more. It goes about halfway down my back now. But I cut it like… I’d say like once a year. I let it grow out. I cut enough to donate to charity.

It seems like you always have a pretty intricate hair piece to match your costume. Are they made by the same person?

It depends. Sometimes my mom makes them. Sometimes the costume person makes them. It just depends on what we want to do.

How long does that take your mom?

It depends on how complicated it is. It could take an hour, it could take three hours. It depends, to actually make them. But to put them in my hair, it takes like 10-15 minutes.

What’s that process like?

I do my hair. The hairstyle’s all done and everything. And then whatever hair piece we have, she takes and she puts my hair and then she sews it in, so that it doesn’t fly out.

Can’t afford the deduction!

[laughing] That would be awful!

MORE: Hanna Harrell talks taking on the Russians at the world junior championships

As a reminder, you can watch the world 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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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1. The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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