NASHVILLE — Mariah Bell, a newly minted national champion, knows that she is considered “ancient” in the sport of women’s figure skating. But she wants to let you know that she is proud.
After almost a decade at the top of her sport, she is now a champion ready to take on the Olympics pressures at 25, She said that she is an example of why skaters should not be allowed to retire, especially when they are having fun.
“I want it to be a known fact that skating doesn’t end at a certain age,” she said of her discipline, which is known to celebrate youth.
On Friday, Bell became the oldest U.S. women’s national champion in 95 years, solidifying her spot on the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics next month. She will be the oldest American woman to participate in Olympic singles skating at those Games.
U.S. After considering their work over the past year, Figure Skating named Bell, Karen Chen (22 years old), and Alysa Liliu (16 years) to the Olympic team. Chen, a 2018 Olympian won the silver medal at nationals. After testing positive for coronavirus, Liu, who was 13 years old, won the national championship. She will be competing again in 2020.
Bell was finally granted an Olympic berth, and after a chaotic week, she savored the moment and breathed deeply.
She and the top American skaters have been on edge at nationals. Not only because Olympic berths could be at stake, but also because of her and other top American skaters. They have been competing and practicing in Nashville since the Omicron virus, which is highly contagious, has struck the world just weeks before the Beijing Games.
At least six skaters were positive for the virus this week, and they withdrew their participation from nationals. Brandon Frazier, who skates in pairs with Alexa Krierim, won the national title last season and skated with her in pairs, was one of them. They are likely be named to the Olympic team, even though they have not competed this year.
The other spot will likely be filled by Ashley CainGribble and Timothy LeDuc who won the pairs event on Saturday. Jessica Calalang (second) and Brian Johnson (third) will fill the remaining spot. The team will be revealed on Sunday.
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Madison Chock, Evan Bates, and Madison Hubbell won the national title in ice dancing on Saturday. Zachary Donohue and Madison Hubbell came in second. These two couples are close to being confirmed for the Olympic team. On Sunday, the selections will reveal the third Olympic berth.
Liu, who had been in her hotel room since her positive testing, appeared on the big screen at Bridgestone Arena and waved to the crowd after she was announced as an Olympic team member. Later, she said that she was feeling good mentally and physically and that she had watched the women’s free skate on Friday with some friends joining her for a virtual viewing party. It was a refreshing change to be a spectator, she said.
Liu, who is from Richmond, Calif., wasn’t sure when she would be able to return to Colorado to resume her training, but the Olympic clock is ticking. Many competitors plan to travel to China in less than three months. To be allowed into China, they must adhere to strict rules. Some people who have contracted this virus have continued to test positive for weeks.
“It depends on how quickly I can test negative again,” Liu said of her leaving for her training rink in Colorado. “I’m guessing I’m just going to stay here until I don’t have Covid anymore.”
As top female skaters prepared to compete at nationals, the positive tests shocked them. But Chen and Bell said that they only had a moment to think about it before they went back to competition mode.
“I gave myself like 10 minutes to just full-on freak out,” Chen said.
Their idea of focusing solely on things they can control will come in handy in Beijing, where the Americans will be up against highly skilled competitors from Russia (which swept the medals at last year’s world championships), Japan and South Korea. Some of those competitors have displayed advanced elements that were impossible four years ago. This includes quadruple jumps that can be done multiple times in one program. Those advanced elements equal more points — so many more points that the Americans probably won’t be able to keep up with them.
Chen and Bell cannot land quadruple jumps, or triple axels. These moves are almost required to win on a world stage. In Friday’s free skate, neither Chen or Bell attempted a triple-triple combination of jumps, which is an essential skill for medal contenders at international events.
While Liu was the first American woman to land a quad in international competition and was the first woman in the world to land a quad and a triple axel in the same program, she hasn’t seriously practiced a quad since March 2020, she said, and doesn’t plan to do one anytime soon.
Chen, who is from Fremont, Calif., is not giving up hope that the Americans can place well at the Olympics, considering her fourth-place finish at last year’s world championships.
“I really went there just thinking, I’m going to skate my absolute best and perform the heck out of my program,” she said, adding, “So, you know, anything can happen.”
Adam Rippon, an Olympic bronze medalist who coaches Bell, also believes that the Americans shouldn’t dwell on medals or placement. He advised Bell to skate for herself, which is what brought him joy.
“The thing that Mariah needs to focus on is that, at the end of the day, people don’t always remember the results, but they’ll remember the skates and they’ll remember the way that you made them feel,” he said.
Bell, who hails from Westminster, Colo. was easily attracted to the sport. Bell, who is from Westminster, Colo., has been a long-time fan of the sport due to the way it makes him feel.
She recalled that her parents bought her a package for skating lessons when she was young. She soon decided she wanted to quit. Her parents shrugged and said, “That’s fine.” But without any prodding, she went back to the rink. And again. She claimed that her father and mother didn’t push her into the sport, and that it nurtured her passion for it.
On Friday, that love for skating permeated Bell’s performance. Bell’s graceful and ethereal free-skating to K.D. was beautiful. Lang’s version of “Hallelujah,” she smiled and glowed, making her hardest elements seem simple. She looked like a prima ballerina in her sparkly burgundy gown, spinning above the ice and landing six triple jumps effortlessly, as if she were light.
It was the moment she had worked toward for years — especially this past year.
When her former fiancé broke off their engagement last year, it nearly crushed her, she said, but in the end it refocused her. No more distractions. With the Beijing Olympics in sight, she redoubled her efforts to reach her skating goals, vowing to use her life experience, both good and bad, both on and off the ice — the experience of an “ancient” skater, shall we say — to push her toward success.
“For me, it’s sort of like my superpower,” she said.
Source: NY Times