Bradie Tennell is getting ready for one of the biggest competitions of her life. Next week, at the U.S. Championships in San Jose, California, her goal is to put down two of her best-ever performances. Though she has been to nationals twice before at the senior level — placing sixth in 2016 and ninth last season — this year she heads into the competition as a contender for a podium finish, and the possibility of earning a berth on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team.
Tennell recalled her novice debut in 2012, when she had trouble finding her way to San Jose for the U.S. Championships. It was not her only wrong turn. “My first year in novice at nationals I skated out for my short program and I started on the wrong side of the ice and did the program the wrong way because there were no lines or hockey circles. I had never skated in a big stadium before and it was a really interesting experience for me.”
The 19-year-old, who hails from Carpentersville, Illinois, has come a long way since then. In late November 2016, Tennell made her senior Grand Prix Series debut at Skate America in Lake Placid, New York, where she surprised the skating world — and herself — by skating into third place. “I was in a bit of disbelief and shock,” Tennell said. “I wanted to put out two solid programs. It was what I had been striving for in my everyday training and I think it really showed when I competed.
“I really had no expectations for myself in terms of placement, and I was coming away with the bronze medal. It was exciting, but it was a bit of a whirlwind. A lot of it is all a blur in my memory, but it is a happy blur so that is OK.”
Though it may seem her success at Skate America came out of nowhere, she has in fact been building a solid résumé for several seasons. In 2013, Tennell claimed bronze in the novice division. The following season she placed fourth in the junior ranks, and in 2015, won the U.S. junior title. “I went into those nationals not expecting to win at all, but I was really well trained. I was really proud of myself. It was a big surprise,” Tennell said.
Her transition into the senior ranks was hindered by repetitive stress fractures in her back in 2015 and 2016. Tennell recalled that the injuries “really tested my patience. It was really hard for me because I had never been off the ice that long before. Both injuries were over the summer and on social media I kept seeing everyone at all the summer events, and I felt like my own career was slipping away. But my mom really helped to keep me on track, telling me that this wasn’t the end. She kept me thinking positively.”
Tennell’s top-10 finishes in her first two seasons as a senior at U.S. nationals earned her two trips to the World Junior Championships, where she finished 11th and seventh, respectively.
This year is the first since the 2014-2015 season that she has not had to deal with injuries. “Heading into the Philadelphia summer competition, I had already been on the ice the same amount of time as I had the entire time last season heading into nationals,” Tennell said. “That really put things into perspective for me because if I could go to nationals and skate decently with only four months of training then I was fairly confident that I could put out good programs in Philadelphia.”
Her victory at the Philadelphia competition earned her that invitation to Skate America. Although, she was pleased with the performances she put out in Lake Placid, Tennell returned home to make changes and improve her “Taeguki” short program (choreographed by Scott Brown), and her “Cinderella” free skate, which was crafted by Benoit Richard.
“At nationals I really want to improve on what I did at Skate America. I want to get level fours on both my step sequences,” Tennell said. “I am working on fine-tuning the details of both programs and I just want to put out two more solid programs.”
And, Tennell is confident that this time around she knows the way to San Jose.
Started skating? Age 2 ½. We are actually not sure how I even figured out that ice skating existed. We were in between houses at the time and I just kept begging my mom to take me skating. So she just took me to the closest rink to skate and I just never stopped.
Favorite place you have competed? That’s a tough one, but I think my favorite place would probably be Japan. It was amazing. Everywhere you go the people are so friendly and there was just so much to see. It is so different from the culture here and it was really cool to just experience that.
Favorite skating element? Triple Lutz
Most challenging skating element? A plain triple toe
Costume Designer? Tania Bass Couture
School and studying?
I attend a community college that is about 20 minutes from my house. At the moment I am just getting my general education credits out of the way. I am undecided about what I want to major in, but I know that it is going to be something in the health or medical science field. I really just want to help people and help improve their quality of life.
Book? “Empire of Storms” by Sarah J. Maas
TV Show? “Supernatural”
Food? Ice Cream
Country you would most like to visit? I have two. I have wanted to go to Athens, Greece, and Rome, Italy, forever. Since I was 5 those have been my dream destinations. I love the mythology and all the historical sites – they are just so beautiful.