Rachel Lutz

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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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How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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The way Gracie Gold explains it, she was set up on a blind date while attending the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

“I was up in the stands just watching, just a mess,” said Gold, who took that Olympic season off to treat depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

She was invited to watch the junior women’s free skate from backstage, where athletes meet their coaches after performing.

“They’re probably trying to make me feel important because I had a case of the sads,” said Gold, who was making her first public appearance at a skating event in a year. “It occurred to me later that this was a set up.”

A backstage group convinced her to swap phone numbers with Frenchman Vincent Restencourt, a former world junior medalist turned coach. Gold had begun to dabble in coaching herself. Restencourt offered her a weeklong gig at his rink.

“I’ll just fly somewhere for a week, make some money, just get out in the world,” Gold said. “Remember, I fell off the face of the earth for quite a while.”

But when she got to IceWorks in Aston, Pa., another group convinced her to relocate there from Arizona. Not to coach, but to skate again.

“If you looked at me, it was a joke,” Gold said. “No one was going to look at me and be like, ‘Oh my god, you still have so much potential.’ I had a brown bob cut. I had my nose pierced.

“I was like, it’s probably not possible. And they were like, ‘But don’t you want to say that you tried?’”

Gracie Gold
Gold watching from the stands at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Gold was convinced that, at the very least, she should get into skating shape to participate in shows and make some money.

“It was super easy for me to say yes to another opportunity,” Gold said. She flew back to Arizona, packed and was in Pennsylvania two weeks later.

Her new students ranged from 3 years old to adults. She also started training under Restencourt.

“Sometimes they treat me like I’m a little bit fragile or like I might melt down at any point,” she said. “But better to be safe than sorry after what happened.”

Gold’s only competition of the 2018-19 season was the Rostelecom Cup stop in Russia for the Grand Prix Series. She finished 10th out of 10 skaters in the short program due to a fall on a triple flip and a popped Axel and ultimately withdrew before the free skate.

“The goal was just to show up and try to be brave,” she told media at the time.

She also skipped the 2019 national championships; instead, she gave a detailed and personal interview that week to the New York Times. Gold said she hasn’t ruled out competing this summer or fall.

“We check in every little bit like, ‘how are we thinking this is going?’ And then we’re both like, ‘Eh, we need more work.’”

That conversation happened in February, though a similar one took place days before our interview with Gold.

“We were just like, ‘we’ll compete again when we’re ready,’” she said, adding, “a lot of it’s my own issues. I’m sure I could compete a program with a couple triples in it.”

At first, gearing up for Gold’s ultimately abbreviated 2018-19 season, the team wanted to fix everything at once: jumps, spins, basic technique. That frazzled her. Now the focus is on physical fitness and athletic ability.

“That’s where we’re starting – not even figure skating shape,” Gold said. “When you’re in athletic shape, then you feel like you can be less embarrassed to go ice skating, then we can ice skate more. Then we can jump more, and spin more and train more. And then we can compete.”

MORE: Hubbell, Donohue already have 2020 Worlds in mind

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Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue already thinking about worlds in Montreal

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Two-time world medalists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue chatted with NBCSports.com/figure-skating before a show on the Stars on Ice tour, reviewing the recent season and looking ahead to 2020 and a home world championships.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

NBC Sports: Now that we’re a little bit removed from worlds, how would you evaluate your season?

Hubbell: The season felt really long, this one. Most people find that the Olympic season is very, very long, and that was. We jumped right back into it. We didn’t take any extra time in the winter. We did our usual plan, so I think maybe just like two very intense long seasons in a row took a lot of effort.

NBC Sports: It felt like you had a good chunk of your season early, the way you had your Grand Prix events stacked. [They competed at the first two, in the U.S. and Canada.]

Hubbell: It was in little chunks. We competed a lot at the very beginning with a lot of success and that was exciting, a lot of firsts for us. And then we thought we would have a break, which was foolish, on those five weeks. And instead we changed our free dance. We kind of ended up doing that all along the season. Which was great, it was very cool changes in our program through the year but it made it a very demanding, demanding season.

NBC Sports: How will you try and avoid that this year?

Donohue: My goal this year is to just make a program and slowly let it get better instead of changing it at the slightest sign of discomfort or, you know, a misstep or something.

Hubbell: I think it depends on the program. Last year we went for a different type of “Romeo + Juliet.” That was great, but we also knew that it would be a really challenging championship series with so many talented skaters and our goals. And as we were growing as a team, we kept making it more challenging. Hopefully this year, we’re gonna take a lot of time in the off season to create a program. We don’t have a set plan yet for the Grand Prixes, which ones we’re doing, scheduling. But I think it might be possible that we don’t do a senior B, but we just take a little bit more time to really create programs and debut at the Grand Prix.

NBC Sports: Plus, the senior B in Salt Lake City is at altitude!

Donohue: I’m pretty sure I finished last year and I told [coach] Patrice [Lauzon], I said, “I don’t care what you do to me, I’m not doing this competition ever again. Four years in a row was enough.” We’ll see. He might find a way to trick me into it again. It’s not so much the altitude. It’s a very long season when you have to start that early – because you have to prepare. You don’t just compete. You gotta prepare for months ahead of time and that means rushing a bit at the choreographic process. I think that’s one of the things that our teammates have over us is more time to prepare and train. Their season doesn’t really start until the Grand Prix season or even just before.

Hubbell: It depends on the point of your career. We always wanted to go for some experience and world ranking points and everything. But now with our world ranking, there’s not necessarily a reason that we need to go out and be seen so early. We will be already seen by our federation three or four times before the Grand Prixes. We trust our team and all of them to prepare us. It will be nice … we’ll see what the coaches think. We have not confirmed that with them. My desire would be to be able to take a little more time and just show up at Skate America.

NBC Sports: So, what are you thinking next season? Can you talk about your thoughts about the Broadway themes?

Donohue: It’s something we’ve never done separately or together. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a new chapter for sure.

NBC Sports: Your training group is so big. Have there been times where you said, “I wish I had claimed that music first”?

Hubbell: We put a few things down last year and said, “These are a few ideas we’ve had through the year.” Luckily, I think there’s also a little bit of a hierarchy as well. If we came to [the coaches] with the same ideas, some of our skaters allowed us to have first dibs until we make a choice. That’s nice. And for now, we have several options in the air. Now’s the time to go home and try to move to the music. It sounds great in your headphones until you move to it and you’re like “Hmm. That’s harder,” or, “That didn’t play out like I liked.” I think we’ll be able to make a decision in the next month or so.

Editor’s note: A few days after this interview, Hubbell and Donohue revealed on on Instagram that they’ll use music from “A Star is Born” for a program this season. NBCSports.com/figure-skating confirmed it would be their free dance music.

NBC Sports: This is a long-term question, but how great will it be to have a “home” world championships in Montreal? Can you stay in your own bed?

Hubbell: I had a few people messaging me on Instagram saying that I should make a guide to Montreal and put out some stuff about our favorite places to eat or get groceries, just some information for people that are coming. It made me think, “Oh yeah, it’s true, even though it will feel like competition, it’s kind of like a stay-cation where we get to enjoy the city in a different way.”

NBC Sports: Do you think the U.S. skaters will come to you for that kind of guidebook stuff?

Hubbell: Something like worlds, people are ready to let loose a little bit. They’ll go out, have a nice dinner. Go to a bar. Usually, when we were in Milan [for the 2018 Worlds], we were asking [Italian ice dancers] Anna [Cappellini] and Luca [Lanotte] “Where should we go? What should we do?” People will be interested, but luckily there’s many a skater that are from there and have lived there much longer than we have. People probably won’t rely wholly on our opinion. A fair amount of retired skaters are still in the area. It’ll be a nice reunion.

MORE: Hubbell, Donohue earn bronze at 2019 World Championships

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