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.
Download the Team USA app today to keep up with figure skating and all your favorite sports, plus access to videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, and more.
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.
Food Phrase - Episode #6 Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson Hosted by Mariah Bell
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.
Four takes with Mariah Bell. Which one is your favorite?
Backstory: In early May 2019, I joined Dani Montalbano, Mick Brezina and Mariah at Lakewood ICE to document their 2018-2019 programs while wearing Plus Five Apparel. It was my first time ever filming with Mariah, and in celebration of her amazing performance at U.S. Nationals last weekend, I’ve decided to share all four clips we took of her 2019 Long Program. The fourth video is the one I ended up posting, but it’s fun to go back and see the ‘warm-up’ process it took to get there.
I think my favorite part about the way I filmed this is that I didn’t ask Mariah to walk me through her steps before she started skating it. I just start filming and eventually gain an understanding of who a skater *is* through a lens. Videos 1, 3 and 4 really are the first time I’d watched her skate those sections. I think I capture emotion best that way, because it allows me to react to the skaters’ movements in real-time (like a live audience) and not bring in my own assumptions based on something I saw recorded on different day in entirely different circumstances. Good skating looks best from all angles anyways, so it’s more about the way I take an audience, especially a first-time skating audience, through that experience.
Thank you as always for your support! After Dancing On Ice ends I’ll be back to traveling and filming skaters worldwide, and your financial support will be invaluable in helping me afford to continue producing skating videos exactly the way I’d like to!
Bell, older sister Morgan, parents Kendra and Andrew, and Bell’s rabbit Gizmo are all practicing social distancing in the family’s 45-foot recreational vehicle (RV).
“When you see an RV driving down the street, you may not think about what it looks like in the inside,” Bell said. “It really is like a house.”
A few years ago, Kendra and Andrew confronted an empty nest. Mariah was training in Southern California in Rafael Arutunian’s group; Morgan had joined Disney on Ice. With Andrew working for a chemical company in Switzerland, and Kendra splitting her time between Switzerland and her parents’ home in Dallas, they just didn’t need their house in Colorado. So, they sold it and purchased an RV in November 2018.
“My parents can move it anywhere they like,” Bell said. “Right now, we’re in Palm Springs (California). We’ve been staying here the past few weeks and will be here through the end of April.”
Far from complaining of cabin fever, the skater considers her family more fortunate than millions of others holed up at home.
“We haven’t been able to spend this much time together in several years, so it’s been nice,” she said. “Maybe that’s the silver lining for everyone. If they are lucky enough, they can spend this time with their family.”
Bell’s longtime boyfriend, French skater Romain Ponsart, is waiting out the pandemic in his home country.
Passing April in Palm Springs – where it’s sunny most of the time and temperatures top out in the 80s – helps to cushion the blow of missing the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships, which were cancelled last month.
“I had the best, by far, season of my career and I’m obviously disappointed I didn’t get to end it with a big bang,” said Bell, who won two Grand Prix medals last fall and a silver medal at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.
“It just puts things in perspective. Figure skating is so small. What we are dealing with now is far more important. I’m very disappointed in my athlete’s brain that I didn’t get to do worlds, but I absolutely understand.”