Tennell, who won the gold medal, is peaking at just the right moment. Nagasu’s triple axel and technical ability have allowed her to hover in the Olympic conversation for three full cycles now, uncommon longevity in a sport often geared toward shooting stars.
And Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion, had a strong free skate despite spending most of Thursday sick in bed, shuttling to her sports psychologist and acupuncturist to give her any chance of competing Friday night. She turned in the fourth-best free skate of the evening.
So as a means of introduction, as all three women will undoubtedly find themselves in the spotlight over the next few weeks, here’s a quick look at the members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic ladies figure skating team.
Tennell was at the Fairmont hotel, talking to a group of people, when her mother called her over late Friday night to tell her she had made the Olympic team.
“I teared up a little bit,” Tennell said. “But I was surrounded by people so I didn’t want to, you know, go all out. But I was extremely happy.”
Her emergence as a figure skating star did not come out of nowhere — not to those who watch this sport throughout the Olympic cycle, not just at the end. Tennell won the 2015 U.S. junior championship by blowing away the field.
Then she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her back. A year later, doctors found another. She missed six months of competition over two years before making her senior international debut in November 2016.
Fourteen healthy months later, Tennell won the senior national championship. Tennell’s gift is her jumping ability, which she showcased to perfection Friday night.
Bradie Tennell was the surprise bronze medal-winner at the 2017 Skate America competition in November, vaulting herself into the Olympic conversation. The 19-year-old was the 2015 U.S. junior national champion, and became the 2018 U.S. national champion in January, when she was named to the Olympic team.
Music this season: Short program: Selections from Taegukgi (soundtrack) by Lee Dong-Jun
Free skate: Selections from Cinderella (soundtrack) by Patrick Doyle
Tennell’s short program music is from a popular Korean film. A friend recommended it to her, and she “fell in love with how powerful it is.” Her coach called the selection of the music “a conscious choice,” being that the 2018 Olympics are in South Korea.
Tennell was born January 31, 1998 in the Chicago area and began skating at age 2. She’s not sure how she got into the sport, but recalled begging her mother to take her to lessons. She attended classes at the local rink and never stopped. She’s been with her same coach, Denise Myers, for 10 years.
Tennell won the 2015 junior national title after finishing fourth the year prior.
A few months later, she learned she had a back injury and spent the rest of the summer in a brace. She struggled the following season, and in June 2016, learned she had a stress fracture in her back. She redoubled her off-ice recovery efforts, taking up Pilates and more physical therapy, in order to come back the next season.
Major competitions/ medals
In the summer of 2017, Tennell won two small competitions to open her Olympic season. Then, she competed at the Lombardia Trophy in Italy and placed fourth. She was invited to compete Thanksgiving weekend at Skate America, her first-ever senior Grand Prix assignment. Tennell won a surprise bronze medal – that’s when the Olympic buzz about Tennell began.
Tennell won the 2018 U.S. national title ahead of Mirai Nagasu (silver medalist) and Karen Chen (bronze medalist)