SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – Mirai Nagasu was fighting nerves. Karen Chen was fighting illness.
Bradie Tennell fought them off to win the U.S. Figure Skating Championships women’s title Friday night.
Then they all cried.
Rising star Tennell’s near-perfect free skate earned her first national crown and almost certainly a spot on the U.S. team for next month’s Olympics.
Tennell, a long shot entering the season, was spotless in the short program two days ago, then as the final skater in the free skate she didn’t miss a trick under tremendous pressure. Her total score was 219.51 points.
“I just had to keep calm and focus on what I knew I could do,” Tennell said.
Nagasu, U.S. champ 10 years ago and a 2010 Olympian, capped a sensationally sweet comeback with a flowing performance to finish second, virtually assuring a spot in next month’s Olympics — a berth she was denied four years ago by the selection committee.
“I really put in my vote for the Olympic team,” said Nagasu.
After overpowering the entry and two-footing her triple axel, Nagasu hit six triple jumps. She shattered her personal best by nearly 20 points with 213.84.
Chen, the defending champion, was third with 198.59 and Ashley Wagner (196.19) came in fourth.
Chen’s big season last year had not translated into achievement this campaign. She put those struggles to an icy death with a superb showing that had one flaw toward the end. She, too, was overcome by tears when her score was posted.