Knier­ims take pairs short pro­gram at Cham­pi­onships

Antelope Valley Press - - AV OUTDOORS - By BARRY WILNER

GREENS­BORO, N.C. — Bradie Ten­nell felt it was time to show a new side of her per­son­al­ity on the ice.

Ten­nell’s usual clean and ef­fi­cient short pro­gram was enough to take the women’s short pro­gram Thurs­day night at the U.S. Fig­ure Skating Cham­pi­onships. To the 2018 Amer­i­can cham­pion, it was a de­par­ture from her nor­mal per­for­mances.

``It’s fun and tacky,’’ Ten­nell said af­ter be­ing so solid that she beat 2019 win­ner Alysa Liu in a bit of a sur­prise. ``It’s fun to put that into my skating and ex­plore that side.

``I kind of just lost my­self in the per­for­mance. In warmup I felt shaky. I had to re­mind my­self that I do this ev­ery day, so there’s no need to be ner­vous.’’

De­spite an el­bow in­fec­tion that re­quired treat­ment on Wed­nes­day af­ter Ten­nell couldn’t straighten her arm for the pain, she earned 78.96 points.

``I am proud of how I skated,’’ Ten­nell said. ``I love the pro­gram, it re­ally em­bod­ies me.’’

There’s noth­ing wrong with Ten­nell’s style at na­tion­als, but it tends to get over­shad­owed on the in­ter­na­tional scene. Of course, that’s not a con­cern this week.

``Luck­ily, I don’t have to com­pete against them here,’’ Ten­nell said with a smile when asked about the Rus­sian jump­ing ma­chines who dom­i­nate the sport.

The youngest U.S. win­ner last year at age 13 — she’s not even el­i­gi­ble for se­nior in­ter­na­tional events yet — Liu is more dar­ing with her jumps than any other Amer­i­can. She landed a triple axel, the only one of the com­pe­ti­tion, but stepped out on the land­ing, which was costly.

She was 3.56 points in back of Ten­nell.

``I did make a few mis­takes, but that’s how you learn,’’ Liu said.

She will skate last in Fri­day night’s free skate, which doesn’t af­fect her at all.

``I don’t care where I skate,’’ she added with a smile.

Mariah Bell took third and might have chal­lenged Liu had she not fallen at the end of her foot­work. Bell shook her head as if to scold her­self for such a bob­ble.

``To­day, it felt re­ally good,’’ Bell said of her pro­gram. ``Maybe too good, and that’s why I had that mis­take.’’

Two-time U.S. cham­pion and 2014 Olympic team bronze medal­ist Gra­cie Gold, at­tempt­ing a come­back af­ter men­tal health is­sues de­railed her ca­reer, was 13th. She drew a heart­felt ova­tion from the crowd at the end of her er­ror-filled rou­tine.

Gold said that con­sid­er­ing where she was when she be­gan her re­turn, the night was a nine out of 10. As for the per­for­mance, af­ter a long pause she rated it “three out of 10. OK, four.”

Glenn had her best per­for­mance at na­tion­als, an en­er­getic and fast-paced rou­tine that had her over­come with emo­tion when she was done.

Ear­lier, Olympians Alexa and Chris Knierim, com­ing off a poor sea­son, put that dis­ap­point­ment far be­hind them in win­ning the pairs short pro­gram.

The hus­band/wife cou­ple that helped the United States win a bronze medal at the team event of the 2018 Games in South Korea, took a lead of nearly seven points with what they both said was a long-sought clean per­for­mance.

``It was nice to be com­fort­able on the ice and put out a great short pro­gram,’’ he said. ``Noth­ing felt easy go­ing through it, but re­gard­less we know we can put out a pro­gram like that. For us, it’s been a long road to get here.’’

hat road in­cluded a dis­mal 2018-19 cam­paign in which they changed coaches and lo­ca­tions, ba­si­cally, Alexa said, liv­ing out of suit­cases. It came a sea­son af­ter they won their sec­ond U.S. crown and was marked by a seventh-place fin­ish at na­tion­als last Jan­uary.

They didn’t have strong fall show­ings ei­ther, but they were ready Thurs­day. Their triple twist was huge, as was their throw triple flip. The Knier­ims cleanly landed their sideby-side triple toe loops, of­ten a ma­jor ob­sta­cle for them.

``We’ve been driven to skate like this and it al­ways seemed some­thing would get in the way,’’ Alexa Knierim said. ``It’s been a while since we skated like that.’’

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