After shocking the skating world with a near perfect performance in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, Bradie Tennell won the women’s national title and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team as one of three female skaters competing individually.
Here’s more about Tennell and her family.
1. Tennell Was Raised by a Single Mother & Has Two Younger Brothers
Tennell was born in suburban Illinois to a single mother, Jean, who is a registered nurse. She has two younger brothers, Shane and Austin, who both also spend time on the ice as hockey players.
On social media, Tennell often posts throwbacks to her early skating days and family photos. Tennell began learning to skate as a two-year-old after asking her mother to let her try the sport. She remembers wanting to skate, but has no idea what sparked her interest.
“I don’t even know how I figured out what skating was,” she 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.”
2. Tennell’s Family Raised Funds to Watch Her Compete in PyeongChang
Tennell’s family will be flying to watch her compete in PyeongChang. United Airlines surprised the figure skater on her birthday by revealing they were flying her family to the Olympics.
Her mother and younger brothers had been trying to find a way to afford tickets through the help of a GoFund Me page organized by a family friend.
Her mother, Jean works two jobs “to make ends meet on a daily basis,” according to the GoFund Me page set up by Michelle McNamara.
“Because of this, there’s no extra money to bring her sons to PyeongChang,” McNamara wrote on the GoFund Me page. “Bradie’s brothers have always been, and continue to be her number one fans.”
The Skating Council of Illinois also had been taking donations on the Tennells’ behalf. The goal was to raise $20,000 for her brothers’ tickets.
“Throughout my entire journey, my family has been my No. 1 supporter,” Tennell said. “These three were here every day while I was practicing, sitting up in the bleachers. And Shane, he would dance in the bleachers when I had music on, and you know it just made me laugh.”
Her family will now be cheering her on as she competes on the largest stage of her skating career.
“I can remember, you know, dreaming about it and being like, ‘Mom, I wonder what it would be like to march in the Opening Ceremonies with all those athletes and the cameras, and ‘oh, my goodness, how cool that would be,’” Tennell told WPXI. “And now I get to go live it. It’s crazy.”
3. Tennell Was Home-Schooled By Her Mother
Tennell, who currently takes classes at McHenry County College, was home-schooled by her mother. Once she started skating as a young girl, she never wanted to stop.
“My mom says that she came home from work one day and I asked her to take me skating, and then I kept asking and asking,” Tennell told the Northwest Herald.
Tennell currently takes general education courses at a local community college — and is interested in science or medical fields.
“I really just want to help people and help improve their quality of life,” she told NBC. But she didn’t offer much detail about her long-term career plan. “I like to live in the moment,” Tennell told People, “and take things one thing at a time.”
4. Tennell Trains With Her Longtime Coach Denise Myers
Tennell and her coach at Twin Rinks, Denise Myers, have tried to maintain normalcy as they prepare for PyeongChang.
“We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible and take it one day at a time, one session,” Myers said. “We have our daily plan for each day, and we’re trying to stick with it.”
Myers has worked with Tennell for 10 years at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove.
“What we’re doing is fine-tuning and enhancing the program in certain areas, just the connections,” Myers told The Chicago Tribune. “Technically, she’s spot on. She’s very ready.
“We have done a lot of visualization, imagining the sounds of the cameras and the noise, the lights and the atmosphere. I really do think she’s ready.”
While some competitive skaters move across the country to train at elite training facilities, Tennell has wanted to remain in Chicago with her longtime coach.
“My philosophy has kind of been ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” Tennell told NBC. “I have great people surrounding me here [in the Chicago area] and I like being here. All my friends are here. I didn’t really see the point of moving and changing my entire lifestyle when what I’m doing here is working. I never felt the need to move somewhere else.”
5. Tennell Describes Herself As a Homebody
Tennell is a self-described “homebody” who enjoys reading and family movie nights.
Tennell tries to balance the pressure of rigorous training and competition by watching her favorite TV shows. During nationals, Tennell binge-watched “How to Get Away with Murder.” She told NBC she might add other shows to her computer before heading to PyeongChang to help her avoid distractions. She likes Supernatural in particular, and superheroes are her favorite.
Tennell’s short program features music from the film “Taeguki” by Lee Dong-Jun and a free skate to a “Cinderella” medley by Patrick Doyle.
“Taegukgi” is a blockbuster Korean War film that tells the story of two brothers. The name “Taegukgi” is a nickname for the country’s flag.
“I’m hoping it’s received well,” Tennell told NBC Sports. “I certainly love the music and I hope it do it justice.”
She uses music from the 2015 live-action movie “Cinderella” for her free skate, which resembles her own unexpected rise in the world of figure skating. Tennell, who has loved Cinderella since childhood, wanted to skate to it for years, but wanted to perform to the piece at the right moment.