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Bradie Tennell on self-doubt, lessons learned this season

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Before a stop on the Stars on Ice tour, Olympian and U.S. champion Bradie Tennell caught up with NBCSports.com/figure-skating, discussing what she learned from the post-Olympic year and what direction she wants to go next season.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

NBC Sports: How would you evaluate this season?

Tennell: It was a bit challenging. It didn’t go quite the way I expected it to or hoped it would. I think I learned a lot and there were some very valuable lessons that I’m glad that happened. Looking forward, I know how to better handle some situations now because of the year that I had. I’m just really grateful for all the experiences. Of course, my skate at worlds was everything that I wanted to do all season. So, I was really happy with that.

NBC Sports: It sounds like now is a good time in the quad to maybe learn those things.

Tennell: For sure. If it was any time to happen, I did it at the right time.

NBC Sports: What were some of those lessons?

Tennell: Not to let the unexpected bring me down. When I’m out there, just trust myself more, not have so much self-doubt. Because I know I’m trained. When I go to competition, I’m trained, I’m ready. I know what I’m doing. This year, when I stepped on the ice, I started second-guessing myself. That’s where some of those under-rotations came from. So then of course the self-doubt crept in even further. It’s cyclical. I think I need to believe in myself and keep that confidence moving forward.

NBC Sports: Where does that get the worst for you? Does it happen mid-program, if things start to fall apart? Before the music starts?

Tennell: I think it’s right before the music starts. In that second or two of absolute dead silence, all those thoughts come racing into your head. You’re like, “No! I’ve got this!”

NBC Sports: Looking ahead, have you started looking at music? Will you work with choreographer Benoit Richaud again?

Tennell: Yes, I will be working with Benoit again. I am looking for music. That’s very challenging for me – just because I’m so picky. I’m still in that process.

NBC Sports: Last season you had one program from both worlds, the modern and the classic. Is that something you want to try again?

Tennell: Not necessarily. I know I want programs in two different genres to show a wider range. I definitely wanna have programs that are very different from each other, I’m just not sure what yet.

NBC Sports: It seems like tour is the place to experiment with new programs. Can you tell me about your program to “Stay” and “Diamonds” by Rihanna?

Tennell: I love my costume for it. It’s the black unitard, super cool. I think people really like it. It’s something different for me. I can’t say I would’ve thought that I would pick it, but Benoit and I were just listening to music one day and I was like, ‘Oh I could kinda get into this.’ And he’s like [in an accent] ‘OK, we make program.’ I was like ‘OK! Sounds good!’

NBC Sports: You clearly give him a lot of room for input.

Tennell: Yeah, he’s amazing. He’s got such a vision for everything and he challenges me a lot, which is really great. I’m really glad that he does that. He’s pushed me out of my comfort zone but that’s really helped me grow as an athlete.

MORE: Bradie and Benoit’s vision for “Romeo & Juliet”

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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