Maria Bell won the US figure skating title and a place in Beijing

NASHWILL – Newly formed national champion Maria Bell needs a reminder that she has been in figure skating for a long time, somehow surpassing the battalions of teenagers at a very young age.

“I was a senior Nine Years? ”He asked the reporters’ room on Friday night, looking incredulous, referring to the senior level of the sport’s top skating.

A sea of ​​heads shook her back.

Bell, 25, won her first U.S. national championship on Friday, becoming the oldest female national singles champion in 95 years, after years of escaping a difficult sport with her mental and physical toughness and watching other great skaters come and go.

Her victory secured her place in the U.S. squad for next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, where Russian women will be the favorites in the singles category and will probably win medals. Bell has been the oldest American female Olympic singles skater since 1928.

U.S. Figure Skating on Saturday named the Olympic team after considering the past one-year work of Bell, Karen Chen and Alyssa Liu. Chen, a 2018 Olympian, finished second next to Bell on Friday. Liu, a two-time national champion and top American skater this fall, left the country on Friday after a positive test for the corona virus.

After finally getting Olympic Perth on hand and having a stressful and chaotic week, Bell tasted his victory and let out a long and hard breath.

The best American skaters are on the edge nationally, and not just because Olympic berths are at risk. They train and compete here in Nashville just as the highly contagious Omigran variant of the corona virus spread around the world just weeks before the Beijing Games.

Competitors know that a positive test for the virus can disqualify themselves from the Olympics and ruin their lifelong dream.

Amber Glenn, one of the best skaters to be considered for the Olympic team, tested positive on Friday, the day of the free skate. On social media, She said She had been ill for a few days, but thought it might be nerves or allergies.

On Wednesday, Brandon Frasier, who was pairing up with Alexa Neymar, tested positive after waking up with symptoms. Frasier and Kinrim are the top ranked teams in the United States.

Also on Saturday morning, three more competitors from the country – a men’s singles skater and an ice dance troupe – tested positive, but none really competed for the Olympic team.

Fortunately for skaters who have to withdraw from this last big event before Beijing, the National Championship is not an Olympic test event, it is in some other sport, where the top favorites get automatic berths on the US Olympic team.

That difference helped Liu, who saw free skates on Friday when he was alone in his hotel room, and could save Frasier and Kinrim’s Olympic dreams as well. Championship skates, snow dancing and men’s singles competitions are scheduled for couples on Saturdays and Sundays.

However, it is not clear how long it will take for potential Olympians to fight the virus to feel better or begin a negative test, which increases their stress.

Many competitors plan to travel to China in two more weeks, and they will have to follow strict rules, including a negative test for the virus, to be allowed into the country. In some cases, people infected with the virus have been tested positive for several weeks.

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After being named to the team on Saturday, Liu Bridgestone appeared on the big screen in the arena and waved to the cheering fans. On social media on Friday, he said he was feeling better mentally and physically. Earlier in the week, Frasier said he was feeling bad, with severe symptoms.

Positive tests rocked the best female skaters. Sen, the 2017 national champion and 2018 Olympian, said Liu, who was scheduled to skate with him in the final group on Friday in Fremont, California, should take some time to address his concerns after realizing he was not skating. Ring.

Sen, who finished fourth at two World Championships, said, “This news was very shocking and very unfortunate to hear.” I gave it a full 10 minutes in a frenzy about it. Well, after thinking about this for 10 minutes, I told myself to focus on skating.

The technique worked.

The 22-year-old Chen skidded with the Olympian’s skill and confidence on Friday. Winning the silver medal at the national competition was a thrill because he said with a smile that he had won gold at the national level once before and also won bronze three times. Only the silver medal was missing from her. Now she has a complete set.

But Friday’s Sen and Bell skating levels were lower than the standards set by the world’s best female skaters from countries such as Russia, Japan and South Korea, a testament to the fact that their medal hopes in Beijing are slim.

Both American skaters did not do the four-fold jump or triple axle, which was a combination of elements unthinkable even four years ago, but has since become almost essential to success on the world stage. None of their free skates even implemented the triple-triple jump combination, which is the foundation for medalists at international events, although they each did one of those triple-triples on a short plan.

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Isabeau Levito of Mount Holly, NJ, made a triple-triple landing on the free skate, finishing third. However, his chances of making the Olympic team did not help. At age 14, Levito did not meet the age requirements to participate in the Winter Games, but he did not care about that.

He said he felt so much light, warmth and joy in seeing what people wanted me to do because he performed so well in the country.

Bell, from Westminster in Colo, can remember those days when he was a teenager. Many times, she wanted to quit the game.

Once, she recalled, her parents bought her a set of skating lessons and told them she no longer wanted to take the lesson. Her parents said, “That’s right.” They never pushed her into the game, it really nurtured her love, he said.

On Friday, that love for skating permeated Bell’s acting. During the elegant and exciting free skate for Katie Long’s “Hallelujah”, she smiled and simply showed off the most challenging elements. Dressed in her shiny burgundy, she floated above the snow like a Prima ballerina, slowly landing six triple jumps, as if she were weightless.

Later, Bell admitted that she was really “old-fashioned” for women’s figure skating. But the important thing is that she is not old. If skaters are still fun, why should they have an expiration date?

“I want to be aware of the fact that skating does not end at a certain age,” he said.

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