SAN JOSE, Calif. -- For Mirai Nagasu, it was a decision she waited on for four years. For Karen Chen, it was an announcement one year in the making. For Bradie Tennell, it was a dream that became a legitimate possibility less than two months ago.
And all three were named as members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Figure Skating Team Saturday morning on the “TODAY” show. The team was chosen based on skaters’ performances at specific domestic and international events over the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
Each skater is a national champion. Each has medaled at international assignments. Each stood on the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships podium Friday at the SAP Center. Now all three are headed to next month’s Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. But they have three distinct stories.
Nagasu becomes the first U.S. woman to return to the Games after missing an edition. The 2010 Olympian finished third at nationals in 2014 but was passed up by fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner, who had a stronger international resume. This time, Wagner missed out. She finished seventh in Sochi and in 2016 won silver at worlds to break a 10-year U.S. women’s drought, but was fourth in San Jose and her other recent accomplishments were not enough to save her this time. Wagner was named first alternate to the Olympic team, followed by Mariah Bell and Angela Wang.
Chen is the 2017 U.S. champion and finished fourth at worlds to play a huge part in guaranteeing Team USA three women at the Olympics.
Tennell entered the Olympic conversation when she medaled at her grand prix debut in November, and then won the 2018 U.S. title lights out.
The three women will seek Team USA’s first Olympic women’s figure skating medal in 12 years. Let’s take a look at the team:
Hometown: Fremont, Calif.
Training Town: Riverside, Calif.
Age During 2018 Olympics: 18
Olympic Experience: 2018 marks her debut
Seasons Competing As A Senior: 4
Her Story: Chen first made a name for herself when she earned bronze at her senior nationals debut at age 15, but she was too young to compete at worlds that season. After finishing eighth at the 2016 U.S. championships, Chen vaulted back onto the podium in 2017 and won gold before finishing just off the podium at worlds. She then struggled to continue that success when all eyes were on her in her first Olympic season, but Chen regained her confidence and returned to top shape in time for this week, when she earned bronze.
U.S. Championships Medals: Gold (2017), Bronze (2015, 2018)
International Career Highlights: At her senior world championships debut in 2017, Chen placed fourth, helping ensure the U.S. would send the maximum three women to the 2018 Olympics. She has earned three bronze Challenger Series medals, and helped Team USA take bronze at the 2017 World Team Trophy.
How She Performed At Olympic Selection Events: Tier 1… Chen was fourth at the 2017 world championships (and the highest American woman) and third at the 2018 U.S. championships. Tier 2… Chen was seventh and eighth at her 2017 grand prix events, and 12th at the Four Continents (third among U.S. women). Tier 3… Chen won the 2017 U.S. championships and earned bronze at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.
Hometown: Arcadia, Calif.
Training Town: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Age During 2018 Olympics: 24
Olympic Experience: 2010 (4th)
Years Competing As A Senior: 11
Her Story: Nagasu burst onto the scene as a first-year senior, winning the national title at age 14 and becoming the first in 70 years to win the junior and senior titles in back-to-back years. She was fifth the next year but returned to the podium in the most crucial season, earning silver in 2010 to help secure her spot at the Vancouver Olympics, where she was an impressive fourth. After being controversially passed up for a spot on the 2014 Olympic team, Nagasu was 10th at U.S. championships in 2015 for her lowest result in her 11 nationals, but made a comeback the next season when she won silver at Four Continents. She was fourth the following two years at nationals, but took silver in San Jose to end her Olympic selection on a high note. In September 2017, Nagasu became just the third U.S. woman ever to land a triple axel, a jump she will take with her to PyeongChang.
U.S. Championships Medals: Gold (2008), Silver (2010, 2018), Bronze (2011, 2014), Pewter (2016, 2017)
International Career Highlights: In addition to finishing fourth at the 2010 Olympics at age 16, Nagasu has medaled at Four Continents Championships three times, taking silver in 2016 and bronzes in 2011 and 2017. She has four grand prix medals, all earned from 2010-13, and five Challenger Series medals.
How She Performed At Olympic Selection Events: Tier 1… Nagasu scored silver at the 2018 U.S. championships. Tier 2… Nagasu was fourth and ninth at her two 2017 grand prix assignments, and won bronze at the 2017 Four Continents Championships for the best finish by an American. Tier 3… Nagasu earned silver at the 2017 U.S. International Classic and placed fourth at the 2017 nationals.
Hometown: Carpentersville, Ill.
Training Town: Buffalo Grove, Ill.
Age During 2018 Olympics: 20 (born Jan. 31, 1998)
Olympic Experience: 2018 marks her debut
Years Competing As A Senior: 3
Her Story: Tennell won the 2015 U.S. junior title at age 15 and looked to make a promising senior debut the next season, but she would suffer from stress fractures in her lower back in both 2015 and 2016, missing a total of six months of training throughout the two years and finishing sixth and ninth at the 2016 and 2017 nationals. Once healthy, Tennell received her first grand prix assignment – Skate America in November 2017 – when another American withdrew and she took full advantage, earning bronze and becoming the first U.S. woman in 10 years to medal at her grand prix debut. Six weeks later, she took her now-famous consistency to nationals and won gold over a deep field.
U.S. Championships Medals: Gold (2018)
International Career Highlights: Tennell is still relatively green on the senior international scene, but does have her Skate America bronze and a Challenger Series bronze from the 2016 Tallinn Trophy.
How She Performed At Olympic Selection Events: Tier 1… Tennell won the 2018 U.S. championships to make her a near lock for the Olympic team. Tier 2… Tennell took bronze at the 2017 Skate America, the only grand prix of her career to date. Tier 3… Tennell was third at the Lombardia Trophy in September 2017, seventh at the 2017 world junior championships and ninth at the 2017 U.S. championships.