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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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David Boudia wins U.S. title, qualifies for worlds after break from diving

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David Boudia, after a year away from diving, two more children, a concussion and a goodbye to the platform, is back in familiar territory. He’s on the U.S. team for the world championships.

Boudia, a 30-year-old, four-time Olympic medalist, outscored fellow Rio Olympian Michael Hixon to win the springboard at the U.S. Championships on Saturday.

The top two per individual event by cumulative score at nationals go to July’s worlds in South Korea. Boudia was in third place going into the finals but had the top Saturday score by 23.35 to leap onto the team with Hixon.

“It’s relieving, but in my mind, as an athlete, there’s a lot of work to be done before 2020,” Boudia said on NBCSN. “I have to learn new dives if I want to contend with the best in the world.”

Later Saturday, Rio Olympian Amy Cozad Magaña and Delaney Schnell made the world team in the women’s platform, with Schnell helping knock out Rio Olympian Jessica Parratto. Competition concludes Sunday with the women’s springboard and men’s platform.

Boudia, whose 72 career Olympic dives all came off the platform, switched to the more forgiving springboard after a February 2018 concussion.

He considered retiring after a third Olympics in Rio, where he earned synchro silver and individual bronze after an individual gold at London 2012. He even began a real-estate job in Indiana. But he announced a diving comeback in September 2017, saying he didn’t want to have any “what ifs” later in life.

Boudia then beat Hixon at the 2018 Winter Trials, proving he could master the new event. The other Rio Olympian on the springboard, Kristian Ipsen, has retired.

Boudia has competed at every Olympics and world championships since 2005, except in 2017 of course, and is the only U.S. diver to earn a medal in an individual Olympic event at either meet since 2009.

“I don’t think I have been that nervous since 2005,” Boudia said, according to TeamUSA.org. “Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five.”

Cozad Magaña, 28, placed seventh in synchro at the Rio Olympics and plans to retire after 2020. Schnell, 20, was sixth individually at the 2016 Olympic Trials and second at the 2017 world trials before placing 27th at her world debut two years ago.

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U.S. men’s rugby team qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

U.S. men's rugby sevens team
Mike Lee/KLC
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The U.S. became the first men’s rugby team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, clinching its spot Saturday during penultimate leg of this season’s World Series.

The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world, mathematically secured a place in the top four of the World Series final standings by advancing out of pool play in London. The knockout rounds are Sunday, but a top-eight finish was all that was necessary for Olympic qualification.

Now the U.S. can focus on a goal it didn’t have at the start of the year: winning the nation’s first World Series season title. It entered London with a slim, three-point lead over Olympic champion Fiji, one that would be erased if Fiji and the U.S. advance to Sunday’s final and Fiji wins.

Regardless, the season champion will be decided at the 10th and final World Series stop in Paris next weekend.

The Americans held onto the standings lead despite being without two stars — two-time World Player of the Year Perry Baker and Danny Barrett — the last three World Series stops. Baker and Barrett returned from injuries for the London leg.

Four years ago, the U.S. needed to go to a continental qualifier to earn in its place in Rio. Rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in 2016, 92 years after the traditional 15-a-side rugby last appeared at the Games. The Americans ended up ninth in Brazil, missing the quarterfinals on a tiebreaker.

World powers Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa are in position to join the U.S. as Olympic qualifiers through the World Series.

Seven more nations will qualify via continental tournaments later this year and a last-chance event in June 2020. Japan received an automatic spot as host nation.

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