She had to wait three years for it, but Bradie Tennell earned her second national title Friday night at the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Las Vegas.
Tennell tallied 153.21 points in the free skate and a 232.61 total. She is the first woman in 101 years to go three or more years between women’s singles titles. (Tonya Harding won in 1991 and 1994, but was later stripped of her 1994 title.)
She appeared relieved and elated as she finished her strong free skate, landing all seven triple jumps and knowing she had done what she set out to do.
“Winning the title back means everything to me,” Tennell said. “It was one of my driving forces behind my move to Colorado. It’s a driving force behind me waking up every day. They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the destination feels pretty great, too.”
Tennell moved from suburban Chicago, leaving her longtime coach, to Colorado Springs last summer.
After winning nationals in 2018, when she made the Olympic team, Tennell had continued to finish first in the short program every year that followed, but ended up with the silver in 2019 and bronze in 2020. She was joined both years on the podium by Alysa Liu, the winner at ages 13 and 14, and Mariah Bell.
The same three women were in podium position after the short on Thursday, but this time Liu would finish fourth and Bell fifth.
Amber Glenn, surprising even herself, and Karen Chen joined Tennell in the top three with totals of 215.33 and 214.98 respectively. Tennell’s margin of victory over Glenn was 17.28 points, the widest women’s margin since 2014, under a different scoring system.
With eyes wide as can be and welling up with tears upon receiving her score, Glenn was stunned by her 144.50 free skate score. It was a new personal best by more than 19 points.
Now 21, Glenn had won the junior title in 2014 and then continued to float just under the radar as a contender, with her senior nationals results ranging from 13th in 2015 to as high as fifth last year.
“Wow, I’m still kind of in shock,” she said as she began to speak to the media.
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Glenn learned earlier in the day that she has a foot infection that has spread to her knee. Despite the injury, she was able to put together a strong performance, saying she was skating for herself. She had hoped this week to become the fifth U.S. woman to land a triple Axel, but fell short attempting it in her short program.
“I kind of just released myself from all of those expectations and pressure, and just let myself skate,” Glenn said.
Chen, the 2017 winner and a 2018 Olympian, reached her highest placement since the Olympic year with a free skate score of 143.99.
Despite being the two-time defending champion, Liu said she entered expecting the “bare minimum” of herself. She grew three inches in the offseason, which meant relearning many of her jumps and keeping her signature triple Axel and quad lutz out of this week’s programs, and suffered a hip injury in October.
“This was a very cool experience, especially because this was my first live competition [of the season]; I was happy to be here,” said Liu, who noted she is looking forward to returning home and train her quads.
Bell entered as a favorite for the title after winning both of this season’s competitions, the virtual ISP Points Challenge and Skate America. In fifth after the short program, she fell to a distant fifth after a fall on her opening triple flip, among other errors. Her free skate earned 127.58 points.
Audrey Shin, the surprise bronze medalist at Skate America in her debut senior season, jumped from 10th after the short to seventh with a redemptive free skate that scored 119.08 for a 176.82 total.
2014 Olympian Gracie Gold finished 13th, sliding back one spot from her short program placement after falling twice in the free skate.
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