the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Annie Brewer ’21
Image Credit: Bradie Tennell/New York Times
Jan. 15, Bradie Tennell, 22, became the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Senior Ladies’ Singles Champion. Surrounded by an audience of cardboard cutouts, Tennell sparkled as she skated to Florence + The Machine’s “Moderation,” a medley of “Sarajevo” by Max Richter and “Dawn of Faith” by Eternal Eclipse. After two years of repeated disappointments following the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where Tennell won a bronze medal in the team competition, Tennell finally reclaimed the national title from the 2019 and 2020 champion, 15-year-old Alysa Liu.
Originally, the 2021 Championships were set in San Jose, California’s Prudential Center — the place Tennell won her first national title in 2018; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the success of October 2020’s Skate America competition — held in a bubble environment in Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena — it was announced that the 2021 Championships would be moved to the same arena. From Jan. 11-21, skaters competed in junior and senior divisions in Ladies’ Singles, Men’s Singles, Pair Skating and Ice Dance. On Jan. 14 and 15, 17 senior women took the ice to compete for the national title.
After the first night of the competition, a two-minute and 40-second short program skate, Tennell stood in the first place, followed by Liu and Mariah Bell, winner of the 2020 Skate America competition, in second and third place, respectively. Tennell’s lead was decisive, but her position after the short program felt like a broken record as she had finished in the same spot following the short programs in 2019 and 2020.
Coming into the 2021 Championships, all eyes were on Liu as she attempted to three-peat as National Champion. Yet, 2020 proved to be a challenging year for Liu as she dealt with a 4-inch growth spurt, hip injury and change in coaches. This left the door wide open for Tennell, who spent summer 2020 relocating to Colorado Springs to train under Tom Zakrajsek, coach of countless former international level skaters.
Tennell’s victory ultimately came down to her longer free skate performance. Displaying improved artistry, strong jumps, and consistent stoicism, Tennell outperformed her competitors by nearly 10 points. Amber Glenn, a surprise second-place finisher, and veteran skater Karen Chen also took home medals as both Liu and Bell experienced uncharacteristic falls, slipping into the fourth and fifth place for their cumulative scores.
Collectively, the skaters look ahead to the 2022 Winter Olympics, held in Beijing, China. Nevertheless for now, Tennell will relish her win as she heads to Stockholm, Sweden, in March for the World Championships. Tennell, expressing her elation, told The New York Times of her win: “They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the destination feels pretty great, too.”