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Tennell Strikes Gold, Nagasu Finds Redemption

Photo credit Jay Adeff / U.S. Figure Skating

Photo credit Jay Adeff / U.S. Figure Skating

After finishing in ninth place at last year’s U.S. Championships, Bradie Tennell came out and delivered two fabulous performances and won her first U.S. title. Bradie’s consistency and calm demeanor has not gone unnoticed during this event. Tennell has a lot of potential and if she can continue to stay healthy and maintain her calm and collective attitude she will become the next big thing in U.S. figure skating.

There’s no doubt that U.S. Figure Skating will select Bradie Tennell for the Olympic Team. I do wish that Bradie would have emerged last season to give her more international experience and a chance to be repackaged with more maturity to her skating. But young girls have proven to skate well at the Olympic Games, so you never know, she could be going at just the right time.

“It’s been kind of a long journey over the past two years, I’ve been injured,” Bradie said during the press conference following the free skate. “I was out for a total of six months between the past two years. Going into this year my main goal was to stay healthy. I knew it was an Olympic year, and I knew that somebody has to go, so I just kind of kept it in the back of my mind all season, and just tried to put out programs and rely on my training.”

Mirai Nagasu Captures the Silver

Arguably the best moment of the entire event was brought to us by Mirai Nagasu. After all that Mirai has endured, it was immensely satisfying to see her deliver a spectacular free skate. Nagasu’s triple axel was not perfect, but she managed to stay on her feet and perform the rest of her elements with focus and determination.

It was clear that Nagasu put in the work day after day to ensure that there would be no debate about weather she deserved to be named to the Olympic Team. She has earned her spot among the top U.S. ladies. Mirai may have finished with the silver, but this victory was bigger than a medal. The tears she shed when she was bumped off the Olympic Team in 2014 were not in vain. They awoke the fighter within her. Through all of her disappointments and set backs, she continued to persevere and out of that came the triple axel. Mirai’s story could have ended at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but now it continues and will include another Olympic Games. From tears of disappointment in 2014 to tears of redemption in 2018, what a journey it has been Mirai Nagasu.

“I have always believed that I am an amazing skater regardless of what the results say, and I think that determination and confidence has kept me in the game so long,” Mirai said. “I’m aware that I’m the oldest here tonight, but I really feel like the comeback kid, and I cannot wait for the decision to come out [regarding the Olympic Team selection] because I cannot wait to be that 5-year-old girl who began this journey.”

Karen Chen Takes Home the Bronze

Karen Chen has been fighting a virus and was not even able to go to practice on Thursday. She spent the morning at the doctors and the rest of the day resting and doing everything she could to get better for the free skate. Chen was in better shape as she prepared for the free skate, but was still not one hundred percent.

Karen fought for each element in her program. She did not have that spark that we saw from her last year, but she had grit. She was not going to go down because of a cold. In the end it paid off as she finished in third place, edging out Ashley Wagner from a top three finish.

“I’m just so proud of myself that I was able to forget about all the pain I was in and just keep reminding myself that I trained so hard for this moment,” Karen said. “I’m not going to let some stupid sickness win, and I am going to keep fighting until the end. I’m just so proud that I did that and I can’t be happier.”

Ashley Wagner Finishes Fourth

Three-time U.S. Champion Ashley Wagner debuted her La La Land program in the free skate. It was a softer side to Ashley and seemed to work really well for her. Wagner landed a beautiful triple flip-triple toe and it was not called under-rotated, which was good to see because it did look clean. She gave a solid skate, but missed her triple loop-half loop-triple salchow combination by turning the triple salchow into a single.

As soon as Ashley received her score, a look of grave concern crossed her face. She told the media that she was “furious” over her PCS. Wagner is not known for always getting the highest technical score, but she is known for racking up some points in her PCS. In this event however, she only managed to pick up 68 points for her PCS where Bradie finished with 69.71 points. This may seem like a small thing, but Ashley lost to Karen by 2.4 points. Not only did it impact her podium finish, her placement at the U.S. Championships is part of the criteria that the selection committee uses to determine who will be on the Olympic Team. Needless to say a fourth place finish is not what Ashley wanted here.

“I am a performer, and that second mark is just not there,” Ashley said. “I am absolutely OK with them being strict on my rotations, that’s what I think that US Figure Skating should demand of their judges, but you know, it needs to be across the board. I don’t necessarily feel it’s been that way in this event, so we’ll see how things pan out. Even though I’m mad about my score, that program was such an experience for me and I skated with heart. I took a program that’s a month old, and I delivered something that was solid and something that I’m proud of. It definitely can use a little bit more legwork, but that’s because it’s a month old, and I made the right call and I have no doubts in my mind that La La Land was the program that was going to get me where I wanted to be.”

Déjà vu for Ashley Wagner

It’s 2014 all over again. Ashley Wagner once again finished the U.S. Championships in fourth place. There are three spots for the U.S. ladies figure skating Olympic Team. Will they select the three that made it onto the podium at the U.S. Championships or will someone be bumped off so Ashley Wagner can make the team?

Ashley did not have the season that she had in 2014. In 2014 she had a much better season then this last one. On paper, according to the selection criteria, Karen seems to be in a better position then Ashley. What’s difficult is that Wagner is the 2016 world silver medalist and she has done a lot for the sport over the years, but she just has not been that impressive this last year, which is what the committee is looking at.

The interesting factor to me is that U.S. Figure Skating has Ashley in all of their promotional material for the Olympic Games. She’s in the commercials, she has several sponsors and it seemed like she was a lock for the team. The judges could have boosted Ashley’s PCS in her free skate and they chose not to. It’s like U.S. Figure Skating broke up with Ashley because she wasn’t having a great season and they never told her. She expected the support to be there and it wasn’t. This is just a sticky situation all the way around. No matter what decision the selection committee makes, someone’s dream will be shattered and fans will be outraged.

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