One for the Ages! Dreams Play Out on Biggest of Stages in San Jose

By Barb Reichert

2018-march-cover

The Olympic Year never seems to disappoint. The pressure, drama, hopes and dreams — some realized and some crushed — are why this unpredictable sport keeps fans on edge.

And so it was at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California, Dec. 29-Jan. 7.

These championships had it all:

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A real-life Cinderella: The little-known Bradie Tennell, skating to a Cinderella medley, earned her first U.S. title after being a late substitution to the last event of the Grand Prix Series.

Controversy and redemption: Veteran Ross Miner put together the skate of his life to earn the silver medal, only to see his hopes of making the Olympic Team fade away in favor of Adam Rippon, who finished fourth. The tables were turned in the ladies event, as Mirai Nagasu — left off the 2014 Olympic Team after earning bronze in favor of fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner — became a two-time Olympian with a silver-medal finish. Wagner, 26, again finished fourth, but this time was not selected to the Olympic Team.

A feel-good story: The uplifting comeback of Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim, who missed last year’s U.S. Championships due to Alexa’s life-threatening illness and three abdominal surgeries. The wife-husband pairs team were in tears after winning their second U.S. title, thankful to be healthy again and named first-time Olympians.

An ice dance upset: After earning four bronze medals at this event, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue nipped defending champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who led after the short dance, by just 0.19 point.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Remembering where you were: If you were among the lucky 107,318 fans inside the SAP Center from Jan. 2–7, you can now brag to friends that “I was there” for Nathan Chen’s final quad-filled competition before the Olympics, where he was considered a gold-medal favorite.

And let’s not forget the “Jimmy Ma moment,” when the Queens, New York, athlete introduced the U.S. Championships to hip hop-electronica with his “Turn Down for What” short program by DJ Snake and Lil John/DJ Snake’s Propaganda. While Ma finished a distant 11th, his head-bobbing, mean-mugging routine won’t soon be forgotten.

This event was every fan’s dream.

If you tuned in on NBC, you were among those who helped set an eight-year high for TV viewership, 5.4 million, which is the largest audience since the last Olympic Year (2010).

Just as it did in 2012, the city of San Jose and the San Jose Sports Authority were exceptional hosts. With fans filling downtown hotels, local families enjoying the extended Christmas in the Park event (courtesy of the Sports Authority) and young and old alike enjoying Kristi Yamaguchi’s palm tree-studded Downtown Ice, fans couldn’t have asked for more.

“It was just a great atmosphere and the fans and the people of San Jose were so supportive that everyone — officials, skaters, parents and headquarters staff — were thrilled to get a chance to come back,” U.S. Figure Skating President Sam Auxier said. “The San Jose Sports Authority, SAP Center and Solar4America Ice staffs were so accommodating that it really helped everything run smoothly and set the stage for a great competition.  It was certainly one of our best U.S. Championships ever.”

Relive the entire senior event and read all the coverage in the March 2018 issue of SKATING magazine.