Bradie Tennell, the top U.S. women’s singles skater at the 2018 Olympics and reigning national champion, has been out of competitions since July due to a chronic right foot injury, which has kept her out of all competitions leading up to next week’s U.S. Championships and Olympic team selection.
Training became a series of stops and starts, with one to three-day breaks in between. Occasionally, once a week. Even if it was only for two or three weeks.
“There were a few times this year when I thought, oh, hey, this is getting better.” Then I’d go out on the ice and try something new. “And I’d be like, oh my god, I can’t even walk, and we’d be back at square one,” she explained last week. “So I’m trying to stay positive that everything will be fine.”
From September to early December, Tennell resigned from all six of her international assignments. She has been training since early this month, taking one- to three-day breaks “every so often just based on my pain levels,” she explained.
She has scheduled her return to the competition for next week’s nationals in Nashville. This is where the three-woman Olympic team will be chosen by committee based on previous year’s results.
Tennell, whose foot has been repeatedly aggravated by attempting to train jumps, was unsure how to rate her fitness on a scale of 1 to 100. Her ability to run through practice runs of her programs “depends on how much I can handle” on any given day, she explained.
“This year, I have a different definition of 100 percent,” she explained. “I’m staying positive and training as hard as I can.” And I’m optimistic.” By making her season debut at the US Championships, she will attempt to become the first singles skater in at least 30 years to make the US Olympic team.
It’s not the same as, but similar to, Michelle Kwan, who petitioned for the 2006 Olympic team despite not competing at all that season, but withdrew before the Torino Games due to a groin injury. Sasha Cohen competed in the U.S. Championships for the first time in four years in 2010, finishing fourth and missing out on a spot on the two-woman Olympic team.
Tennell, who considered filing a petition in case she couldn’t compete at nationals, is still unsure of the specific injury.
It started bothering her in July, but she was fine the next day. Then it became a problem over one weekend and “just never resolved itself or got better,” she said. She had numerous foot tests, received numerous diagnoses, saw doctors while training in Boston and Chicago, and tried to figure out the best treatment plan in the midst of the uncertainty.
She stated in October that the initial injury was a stress reaction, which was followed by muscle tears.
Tennell has previously suffered significant injury.
After winning the U.S. junior title at the age of 16, she was sidelined for six months in her first two senior seasons due to stress fractures in her back.
She was fully recovered in time for the 2017-18 Olympic season. She was an unknown at first, but she won bronze in her Grand Prix debut and then skated the two best programs of her career to win the national title and secure a spot in the Olympics. She finished ninth in PyeongChang as the top American woman. The triple-triple jump combination could be crucial to Tennell’s or any American’s Olympic hopes next week. Tennell hit it consistently enough to make the Olympic team in 2018 and win the last national championship. Only Alysa Liu and Amber Glenn from the United States hit a positively graded triple-triple during the fall Grand Prix Series, and each did so once in four programs.
Tennell’s jumping content has changed slightly as a result of the injury, but a triple-triple is still on the menu.
Last year, Zakrajsek discovered this during their first season together. She overcame a coaching change, a move away from her hometown of Chicago, and the pandemic complications that every skater faced in some way. Then, in January of this year, Tennell became the first woman in 101 years to go three or more years without winning a national championship.