LAS VEGAS – Sin City proved lucky for Bradie Tennell.
The 21-year-old bested a world champion, a world silver medalist and a Four Continents champion, plus seven others, at Skate America.
The only woman she could not best was Anna Shcherbakova, the 15-year-old Russian who made headlines for landing two quadruple Lutzes in her grand prix debut.
Shcherbakova’s free skate tallied 160.16 and would have scored third among men’s free skates. It vaulted her from fourth after the short program to the victory late Saturday night.
Tennell’s free skate earned 141.04 and her total of 216.14 was good for the silver medal – her highest placement at a grand prix assignment to date. Shcherbakova’s total was 227.76, and her countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 2015 world champion, had a 205.97 total for the bronze.
Amber Glenn was seventh (169.63), while Karen Chen, Tennell’s 2018 U.S. Olympic teammate, fell from sixth after the short program to eighth overall (165.67) with the 10th-placed free skate. Chen has been battling a cold in Vegas and, after one mistake, she was rattled both mentally and physically and began to fell apart.
“Because I was so congested, it was hard for me to breathe through my nose, so I started doing a lot of panting, and I think as I was doing my program I felt rushed and then I was panting a lot, so I wasn’t doing my deep breaths, and that kind of impacted the way I felt through the whole program,” said Chen, noting she grew more and more tense as the program continued.
Tennell, too, felt she could have relaxed and performed more freely.
She will have an almost immediate chance to rectify that as her next grand prix is Skate Canada, which begins in six days in Kelowna, British Columbia.
“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, so my goal going into this next week is to just maintain what I have and possibly improve,” Tennell said. “Obviously the second triple Lutz-triple toe was a little wobbly, so I’d like to clean that up a bit, and also I just want to be more free. I think last night’s (short program) performance was a bit more free than tonight’s, so going into this next week that’s my main goal, to just skate free.”
The Illinois native’s ascent to a leading lady in the sport has been rapid: Tennell seemingly jumped onto the radar as an Olympic hopeful – when she won bronze in November 2017 at Skate America – a mere two months before she won nationals and made the Olympic team. She then finished ninth individually at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, also claiming the team event bronze medal, and sixth at that year’s world championships.
Last season marked her first full one on the senior international scene and presented new challenges: travel and a full plate of competition. She had two grand prix assignments for the first time, plus entered two Challenger Series events, competed at U.S. championships, and made the teams for Four Continents, world championships and World Team Trophy. The eight events were two more than any prior season.
As with everything she does, Tennell handled the busy season with class and managed top finishes at her two grand prix assignments: fourth at Skate America and a earned the bronze at Internationaux de France.
Now with her first grand prix silver in hand, Tennell looks forward to continuing the upward trend next week at Skate Canada, noting she is relieved she doesn’t have to travel as much as last season.
“I am always trying to improve in every aspect of my skating, and it’s been a process, but I think anything is,” she said. “You don’t get a jump in a day, so obviously you can’t expect to improve your skating in a week. I think last year was a very good learning year for me, and I think going into this season I’m able to take my experiences from last year and draw from them to better myself for this year.”