It seems like every Olympics there’s a different breakout American figure skater, and this year’s might be Bradie Tennell.
Tennell, who turned 20 just a week before the Olympics, burst on the scene this year after not making much noise last season. She finished ninth at the 2017 U.S. Championships and came in seventh that year at the World Junior Championships. But then Tennell took bronze at Skate America in November and won gold at the 2018 U.S. Championships, securing her a spot on the Olympic team.
Her path to qualifying for the Olympics was complicated, and her physical journey there was no easier. Flight delays squeezed around a busy practice schedule made the already arduous journey from Chicago to PyeongChang much more of an adventure.
Tennell lives in Carpentersville, Illinois, about 40 miles northwest of Chicago. She began skating at age two when she pestered her mother to take her to a rink.
“I don’t even know how I figured out what skating was,” Tennell told People. “My parents were in between houses at the time and I just kept begging my mom to go ice skating. She looked it up in the yellow pages, for the closest rink. And she took me to go skating.”
She’s not the only member of her family with the skating bug, either—her two younger brothers play hockey.
Tennell practices and teaches lessons at a Chicago-area ice rink. In her spare time, she likes to read, bake and volunteers weekly at an assisted-living home.