On Saturday, Mariah Bell was better than almost everyone on the ice, including the reigning Olympic and world champion.
The 23-year-old from Monument, Colorado, came into the free skate on day two of the Internationaux de France in third place after the short program. She ended up getting the bronze medal for her second Grand Prix series medal, and her free skate was second only to Russian 16-year-old Alena Kostornaia, who upstaged teammate Alina Zagitova by winning the gold medal. Zagitova finished with the silver.
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Bell was in third place after the short program, trailing Kostornaia and Zagitova but not by much. Kostornaia scored a 76.55, Zagitova a 74.24 and Bell a 70.25 for her performance to “Radar” and “Work” by Britney Spears.
Her free skate took on a much different tone, performing to “Hallelujah” by KD Lang, and on Saturday it was enough to put her second only behind Kostornaia, who scored a 159.45 for a total of 236.00 to win the whole thing in her senior Grand Prix debut. Bell’s personal best score of 142.64 placed her higher in the free skate than Zagitova, who won Olympic gold in 2018 and the world title last season, for a personal best total of 212.89 points. Zagitova scored 141.82 in the free skate and finished with a total score of 216.06.
American Starr Andrews, 18, finished in fifth place with 180.54 points.
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Mariah Bell’s two strong skates in France produced the second Grand Prix medal of her career, a bronze (after her silver at Skate America in 2016).
More striking: Bell never lost her focus and made no significant mistakes, as she frequently had in the past, and she beat Zagitova in the free skate. Yet it still seems unlikely (but not impossible) that either Bell or Bradie Tennell, second and fourth at her two events, will be the first U.S. woman to qualify for the Grand Prix Final since Ashley Wagner in 2015. Bell’s second event is Rostelecom Cup in mid-November.