Skate America is Tennell’s first competition of the season; a fractured bone in her right foot forced her to withdraw from a Challenger Series’ event in Canada last month. The injury kept her off of the ice for much of the summer, and when she attended U.S. Figure Skating’s Champ Camp in late August, she was wearing a protective boot.
“Before my injury, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have pain on the ice with my feet,” Tennell said. “It felt really bad at the beginning of July, and then it started to get progressively worse really quickly. So I went to the doctor and got some scans done, and they said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got a break in the bone there.’”
About a month ago, Tennell returned to full training, resolving to make up for lost time.
“That’s just her determination,” Myers said. “You have to listen to what your body is saying. She’s just very determined to have a successful season.”
Tennell’s free skate, also choreographed by Richaud, is set to music from the romantic 1988 film Cinema Paradiso.
“It’s a totally different feel, that’s what’s so exciting about this year,” Myers said. “The short is a little sassier, a little more mature, and the other program is so soft and feminine.”
It will take every ounce of Tennell’s mettle to stay on the Skate America podium. Japanese skaters Kaori Sakamoto and Wakaba Higuchi, both powerhouse jumpers, are close behind in second and third place. Russian teen Anna Shcherbakova sits fourth with 67.60 points and can make up the deficit if she lands the quadruple Lutz she showed at a Challenger event in Italy last month. In practices in Las Vegas, Shcherbakova has included two quad lutzes in her run-throughs.
Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva delivered a solid free skate to score 138.96 points. The 22-year-old who was fifth after the short program, landed two triple Axels for an overall tally of 208.97 points to claim third.
The 2015 world champion was quick to brush off any notion that she might attempt a quadruple jump this season saying, "It's more of a risk when you're starting to do some different things in the program in the middle of the season.
"I just want to show clean my free program and short program and we will see what's going to happen but I can't do quad toe loop or quad Lutz now, I can do just triple Axel." - Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
Shcherbakova signals new world order? Shcherbakova won both her Junior Grand Prix assignments last season but disappointed in the Junior Grand Prix Final.
She was then victorious in last year's Russian nationals, beating fellow juniors and training partners Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia with Zagitova and PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva out of the medals.
Trusova beat Shcherbakova to retain her world junior title in March and has already impressed in her early senior outings, not least in the free skate-only Japan Open earlier this month.
With Kostornaia - who does not have quad jumps in her repertoire - taking last weekend's Finlandia Trophy, the three Russian youngsters look set to shake up the pecking order in their first year in the senior ranks.
And Shcherbakova is hoping to perfect her quads to give her the best chance of winning medals this season.
"We jump quads everyday and in every training. We need to jump it more to have more stability, so then we don't think that it's so difficult." - Anna Shcherbakova to Olympic Channel
No rest for U.S. ice dancers: Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue defended their Skate America title, the 11th straight time a U.S. couple won the event. With Donohue suffering a severe bout of bronchitis, the couple showed a well-earned sight of relief.
Still, the world bronze medalists narrowly lost the free dance to Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia, fourth in the world last season.
“There were good things and not-so-good things,” Hubbell said after the free dance to country-rock music from “A Star Is Born,” later adding, “It felt like there was a lot of energy missing. … It wasn’t the kind of performance we know we can give in that program.”
Antibiotics are on the menu for Donohue; he and Hubbell compete at Skate Canada in Kelowna, B.C., this week.
There, they will not face a world top-five dance couple. But the free dance result at their home Grand Prix shows the tough competition among the handful ranked below Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France. The two-time U.S. champions will want to make a statement in Kelowna.
Reigning World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou withdrew from his fall Grand Prix assignments, Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup, U.S. Figure Skating announced on Thursday.
“It’s really difficult to balance classes and training at the same time,” said Zhou, who is in the middle of his freshman year at Brown University. “I want to perform at the highest level on the ice and in the classroom, and I have not been able to dedicate the necessary time to my skating with my rigorous class schedule. Unfortunately, the timing of my midterms has fallen right in the middle of an important training period for me this fall. This was a tough decision because I love to perform in front of the fans, but this is the best decision for me right now.”
Cup of China is set for Nov. 8-10 in Chongqing, China, while Rostelecom Cup will take place in Moscow, Nov. 15-17. While Skate America concluded this weekend in Las Vegas, next weekend, the skating world turns to Kelowna, British Columbia for Skate Canada.