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by NICK MCCARVEL


To this day, it’s still not clear what got figure skating into the mind of a 2-and-a-half-year-old Bradie Tennell on the outskirts of Chicago. But once there, the sport stuck. “I remember asking, ‘Where did you even


learn those words? Who taught you that?’” Bradie’s mother, Jean, recalled. “We were in between homes and I worked nights and every morning and it was, ‘Take me! Take me!’ So, finally, I found a rink in the yellow pages and we went.” More than 14 years later, Tennell, a Carpen-


tersville, Illinois, native, skated to the U.S. junior title, a full realization for that skating-obsessed lit- tle girl on a national stage. “We weren’t striving to be national champi-


on, but we knew it was in her potential,” Bradie’s coach, Denise Myers, said. “I said to her, ‘Someone has to win, why can’t it be you?’ She was really on point in every way at nationals.” Tennell won going away, in fact. Her 16-point margin of victory was decisive and sets her up well for the 2015–16 season, in which she will skate at both senior-level competitions and the Junior Grand Prix events. Now 17, Tennell says she’s starting to adjust


to being a recognizable face in American figure skating. Tat’s what happens when you win a na- tional title. In Greensboro, North Carolina, for- mer champions John Coughlin (pairs) and Ryan Bradley (men’s) stopped to congratulate Tennell in the corridor of the Coliseum, and for the exhibi- tion skate she shared a dressing room with some of the heroes she’s long looked up to. “It was kind of weird because I was surround-


ed by these people who I’ve been reading about in SKATING magazine for a long time,” Tennell said. “And it was strange to have them come up to me and say that they had watched my skate.” It was a free skate that included six triples.


Tennell says she’s already working on triple-triple combinations for next year. “Bradie was extraordinary at nationals,” her


choreographer, Scott Brown, said. “She practiced well, she was very prepared, very focused, very well-trained and she nailed it.” Nailing it is something that Tennell doesn’t


shy away from. Te soft-spoken high school junior takes things one at a time when it comes to com-


peting on the ice, explaining that her lead after the short program at nationals didn’t add any internal pressure. Te win marked a leap from fourth in the junior competition in 2014. Off the ice, however, Bradie is usually lost in a book of some sort. “I really like to read in my spare time,” Ten-


nell revealed. “Te Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare is one of my favorites. It’s a super- natural kind of thing. A lot of demon-hunting and stuff like that.”


Te demon that is to be attacked in her skat-


ing is that ever-elusive “complete package,” some- thing her team is well aware of. “Having such a successful technical season,


it’s time to build out the artist,” said Brown, who has already choreographed both Tennell’s pro- grams for the coming year. “She’s doing a tango for her long and she’s trying to show more of her- self and her emotion. Tey’re different from what we’ve done before. Tat’s where our work is now: to build the artist in her.” Tennell, who took ballet for years, has been


in ballroom dance classes lately to strengthen her artistic appeal. “Tere’s something in there that hasn’t come


out yet,” Myers said of Tennell’s skating. “I can see it and I can feel it and that’s what I’m trying to do this year. We want to find that and bring it out on the ice.”


What is apparent is Tennell’s fiery passion for


the sport, still burning as strongly as it did when she was shy of 3 years old and tugging on her mom’s sleeves to take her to a rink. Any rink. Te Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion where Tennell


now trains was once home to Jason Brown and Gracie Gold, the latter whom Tennell has devel- oped a friendship with. “Gracie really loves Te Hunger Games, so


we would just start up a conversation about that,” Tennell said of when Gold would stop by the rink. “Or we’d talk about skating.” A banner will soon hang at Twin Rinks with


Tennell’s picture on it, a tribute to a national champion who can’t remember what first got her into the sport — though it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. She’s skating now because she loves it.


GETTING TO KNOW BRADIE TENNELL


Birthplace: Winfield, Illinois Hometown: Carpentersville, Illinois Skating club: Wagon Wheel FSC


Likes the most about skating: The feeling of freeness it gives me


Dislikes the most about skating: Waking up at 4 a.m. almost every day


Skating Idols: Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis


FAVORITES Sport: Swimming Sports team: Chicago Blackhawks Places to visit: Athens, Greece, and Rome, Italy School subject: English Music genres: Country and pop Bands: Fall Out Boy, Taylor Swift and Blake Shelton Movie: The DUFF TV programs: “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Friends” Color: Pink Food: Deep dish pizza and ice cream Ice cream: Triple Chocolate Moose Tracks


SKATING 39


JAY ADEFF/U.S. FIGURE SKATING


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