Bradie Tennell takes command in quest for an elusive second U.S. figure skating title


After Bradie Tennell burst into prominence on the U.S. figure skating scene by winning her first national title in 2018, she did not imagine she still would be looking for a second one three seasons later.

Especially since Tennell had won the short program at the 2019 and 2020 U.S. Championships, only to falter in the free skates, finishing second and third as phenom Alysa Liu took the gold medals.

“Winning another has been a driving force for me,” Tennell said.

And yet she understood that it couldn’t turn into an obsession.

“It can be very overwhelming if you constantly dwell on it,” Tennell said Thursday night.

“I choose to keep it tucked away in the back of my mind. It’s always there, but not like on a billboard, kind of in a drawer.”

Once again, she has put herself in a strong position to take the title, winning the short program at the U.S. Championships for the fourth straight year, this time with a self-assured, sassy performance to music by the indie band, Florence + the Machine in a Las Vegas arena with no spectators. The free skate is Friday night.

And, in a perfect metaphor for a season turned inside out by a global pandemic, Tennell did it with her coach, Tom Zakrajsek, back in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after having tested positive for the coronavirus 11 days ago. Last summer, Tennell had left Denise Myers, her longtime coach in suburban Chicago, to work with Zakrajsek in Colorado.

“It has been a bit strange, especially because of all the recent changes I’ve made,” Tennell said. “Not having my head coach at a competition is a completely new experience for me.

“I don’t remember the last time life has gone according to my plan. I’m trying to dodge and weave, roll with the punches. It’s been very weird, but I’m grateful I’m able to be here and compete.”


Tennell scored a championship record 79.40 points, topping the mark of 78.96 she set a year ago. That gave her a lead of slightly more than three points over Liu (76.36), whose utterly solid performance was by far her best of a season when a growth spurt and an injury had left her struggling with jumps.

Mariah Bell, whom many saw as the favorite coming into nationals, botched her final jump, a triple lutz, and was third at 72.37.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” Bell said.

Tennell, 22, was in complete command from start to finish. She was first in both the technical and component scores, her competitive maturity and confidence evident throughout the 2 minutes, 50 seconds.

“I think I’m growing up and coming into my own and having confidence in myself,” Tennell said. “I know I’ve done the work to earn that confidence. I had the time of my life tonight.”

Zakrajsek said in a text message he has not had a fever and his symptoms (runny nose, cough, headache) had diminished “nearly 100 percent.” He felt well enough to jump up and down as he watched Tennell from afar.

“I thought she looked amazing,” Zakrajsek said. “It was a total performance.”

So was Liu’s, even if it lacked the big jump, the triple Axel, that had played a major part in her having become the youngest champion in U.S. history at 13 two years ago and the youngest to win two straight last year.

As Liu, now 15, the first U.S. woman to land a quadruple jump in competition, began to jump with a different morphology, she temporarily shelved both the triple Axel and the quadruple lutz. A hip injury in late October kept her from doing any triple jumps at all for several weeks, so she worked more on her skating skills, which were relatively weak compared to her jumping prowess.

“I’ve found a new appreciation for skating skills and spins, because before I would just focus on jumps,” Liu said. “When I had my injury and couldn’t jump I was a little sad, but then I started to enjoy the skating part of skating.”

After Liu faltered badly in a team competition that followed Skate America in late October, it was surprising to see her tossing off three triple jumps, including a triple lutz-triple toe combination, as commandingly as she did Thursday.

“I didn’t surprise myself too much,” Liu said. “I just really wanted to do the programs I’ve been practicing the last month.

“I was really happy I could showcase my short the way I do in practice. [And] when the score came up, I was pleasantly surprised.”

It was higher than the scores that left her second to Tennell after the short program the past two years. And even though Liu insisted she isn’t concerned with placement, she finds herself with a good shot at a third straight title, a result that would be as stunning as her first.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Olympic Winter Games, is a special contributor to

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

1 Comment

At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Turning 22 during the tournament, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw

2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
1 Comment

The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw