Mariah Bell competes during the women's free skate at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 25, 2022 in Montpellier, France.
After seven seasons competing on the ISU Grand Prix, with four podium finishes along the way, does Mariah Bell feel a faint twinge of regret as the season, starting with Skate America last week, kicks off without her this week?
“No, not at all,” the 26-year-old said with a laugh. “No regrets. I didn’t know how I would feel, honestly, but I’m happy about where I am right now.”
The reigning U.S. champion, who won Skate America in 2020, now resides in North Richland Hills, just outside of Fort Worth, Texas — about 1,800 miles from Norwood, Massachusetts, where Skate America took place this year. Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, won silver in her Grand Prix debut. Many count her as Team USA’s top hope in women’s competitions this season.
And that is fine by Bell, who announced her competitive retirement with an Instagram post on Oct. 12.
Between furnishing her new condo, planning a return to school, and lending a hand at nearby NYTEX Sports Centre, where older sister Morgan Bell is figure skating director, her days are full.
“It will be fun to watch,” she said. “Before, I was just so focused on myself and training every day, I wasn’t always up to date on what was happening …. As much as skating holds a special place in my heart, I’m excited to move on from it.”
Not that Bell is making a clean break — since placing 10th at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, then winding up her competitive career with a fourth-place finish at the world championships — the effervescent performer is in high demand for shows, and has toured in the U.S. and Japan. Earlier this month, she traveled to Tokyo to take part in the Japan Open as a member of Team North America, which went down to defeat to Team Japan.
“Each team needs (at least) one member that isn’t an eligible competitor, and I was one of them for North America,” she said. “I definitely did not train as hard as I would normally train. I only planned to do three triples, so it was a much easier program. I just really wanted to have fun, and obviously still do well. It felt much more like I was going to do an exciting show, versus a competition.”
After eight senior international campaigns, with their fair share of highs and lows, Bell is ready to turn the page.
“The journey was hard and I didn’t always like it, but I did always love it,” she wrote in her retirement post.
Bell’s toughest moments came in 2021. Favored to win the U.S. Championships, a disappointing free skate left her in fifth place and off the U.S. world team. Heartache visited her personal life when a long-term relationship ended.
“I had to work through self-doubt,” Bell said. “Not being on the world team the year before (the Olympics) was a huge blow to the gut. I remember doing the long program at nationals in Las Vegas in 2021 and being scared to be on the ice. I thought, ‘How am I going to have the success I need to have, to be on the Olympic team?’ It was a lot of working through my own stuff, personal things I didn’t see coming. But it made me really tough.”