Ladies Rally After Tough Opening Jumps

By Troy Schwindt

Falls and mistakes on their opening jumps in the short program sealed the U.S. ladies fate on Wednesday at the Olympic Winter Games in Gangneung, South Korea.

Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell finished ninth (66.93), 10th (65.90) and 11th (64.01), respectively, in the field that featured 30 ladies. Nagasu fell on her triple Axel. Tennell went down on the second half of her combination jump, while Chen put a hand down on her triple Lutz without adding a planned triple toe loop.

As expected, the two Olympic Athlete from Russia — Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva — lead the way with scores of 82.92 and 81.61, respectively. The free skate is scheduled for Friday.

“I over-rotated it a little bit and just tried to land forward and that did not work today,” Nagasu said of the triple Axel, which she landed last week in the Team Event. “This isn’t what I wanted, but you can’t always have what you want and I’m so incredibly proud of myself for taking that fall and continuing the rest of the program and getting every element done.”

Nagasu, competing in her second Olympic Games, went on to land her triple flip-triple toe loop combination and received Level 4s for her three spins in her program to Chopin’s “Nocturne in C Sharp Minor.”

She finished fourth at her first Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver.

Chen, skating to music from “On Golden Pond,” put a hand down on her triple Lutz and couldn’t add the triple toe loop.

“I’m pretty disappointed in myself,” Chen said. “I expected myself to nail that Lutz-toe like I’ve have been in practice. I was really frustrated with myself once I put my hand down and was unable to put that triple toe in.

“I’m also pretty proud of myself that I was able to keep it together and didn’t let that silly mistake bother me mentally or physically. I just made sure I held my spin, stayed focused on my footwork and made sure I added that double toe after the triple loop.”

Chen added that she definitely felt the nerves.

“I think part of it was just realizing that this is the Olympics,” Chen said. “It’s something I dreamed about when I was young. I wanted it to be special and I wanted to skate so well. And having that expectation of myself, I guess I just felt the pressure and I felt nervous. But then again, I feel everyone does and we are just battling the same nerves.”

Tennell kicked the competition off, skating first. The U.S. champion has been virtually perfect this season landing her triple jumps, but fell on the back end of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.

“My timing was just a little off and my left arm got a little away from me, so I wasn’t able to get the snap,” said the 20-year-old, who skated to music from the 2004 South Korean war film Taeguki by Lee Dong-Jun.

Tennell, who turned in a personal-best score of 68.94 in the Team Event earlier in the Olympics, said she could tell something was a little off as she transitioned into the toe loop.

“Things happen,” Tennell said. “We are all human, we make mistakes. You just have to get up and keep going.”

Tennell said it’s not ideal and she’s not fond of having to go first in the entire competition, but it’s something she’s practiced.

“It’s just another challenge that you have to get through,” she said.

Tennell received Level 4s on two of her three spins and step sequence. She also landed a triple loop and double Axel. Her program components scores were modest, mostly in the mid 7s range. When asked how she could propel her PCS upward, she said, “By just going out there and having clean skates and proving that I belong here.”

Tennell said she used the same pre-skate routine before the short program, eating a bowl of Corn Flakes, having her mom fix her hair and listening to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.