Tennell Prepares for Olympics

Carpentersville’s Cinderella skater readies for Winter Olympics

By Erik Alcantar
Medill Reports

Olympic figure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville could have easily decided to move her training to any number of facilities, including the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with fellow Team USA figure skater Mirai Nagasu.

Instead, she chose to stay home to prepare for Pyeongchang Games.

“My theory has kind of always been if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Tennell said. “I’m pretty comfortable here and I enjoy it, so I never felt the need to move.”

At 19 years old, Bradie Tennell has already competed on both U.S. coasts, including stops in San Jose and Boston, and internationally, earning a third place medal for the Egna Spring Trophy in Italy and visiting Austria and Japan.

Tennell found her sport at the age of 2 when she begged her mother, Jean, to take her ice skating. She didn’t even know how to skate, but her determination changed the rest of her life.

“I kept asking and asking so she looked up in the Yellow Pages for the nearest rink to our house and took me skating, and I never wanted to stop,” Tennell said.

Tennell Twirl
Tennell practices her twirls.

Eventually, she made her way to Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove where she has spent the last 10 years skating. Tennell follows a legacy of champions training at Twin Rinks in her lead up to the winter games.

Just four years ago, figure skater Gracie Gold trained at Twin Rinks before leaving for the Sochi Games. Tennell signed a poster to wish her good luck at the time. Gold won a bronze medal  in a team event.

At Twin Rinks, Tennell met her current coach Denise Myers.

“She’s always been very driven, she’s loved to skate, you could see that from an early age,” Myers said.

Her love and passion for the sport drives her to success, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little magic as well.

“I’ve always loved Cinderella, so when the [latest] movie came out in 2015, I was like ‘I’m going to skate to this one day,’” Tennell said. “I felt like this year was the right year to do that.”

With the help of her coach, Tennell was able to perform to the sounds of her childhood inspiration.

“I knew she wanted to skate Cinderella, it’s youthful” Myers said. “I presented her with different pieces of Cinderella and we have a classical ballet in there as well as the 2015 [film soundtrack] and I just thought it would be a good contrast.”

Tennell Arms Crossed
Tennell trains six hours a day.

Tennell’s connection to Cinderella goes back as far back as her skating career, with Myers witnessing her love for the classic Disney animated movie of the princess.

“I have a picture of her when she was 2 1/2 and she’s in the Cinderella dress and the crown and the whole nine yards,” Myers said. “And then, [at] about 5 she’s sitting with her first pair of new skates on and she has a Cinderella crown on. So it really, truly is something that she has enjoyed since she was a little girl.”

It hasn’t been all medals and fairy tales for Carpentersville’s Cinderella. Just four months after placing first in the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the junior level, she suffered a back injury that forced her into a back brace. A year later, another back injury sidelined her once again.

“It motivated me to work harder and be stronger,” Tennell said. “I really just held on to the fact that I knew it wasn’t a career ending injury. People have come back from far worse and you know I’m not one to shy away from a challenge.”

Myers believes it is Tennell’s passion, grit and perseverance that have gotten her this far.

“She’s never really complacent,” Myers said. “She likes to be challenged.”

Tennell's Final Pose
Tennell finishes her routine with a final flair.

A typical day for Tennell begins at 4:30 in the morning, which allows her to arrive at Twin Rinks by 6 a.m. She starts by teaching younger skaters, passing down her skills to the next generation of skaters.

“I think she really loves the sport,” Myers said. “For a long time she told me she wanted to coach, so that seems like a natural progression for her down the road.”

Tennell downplayed the possibility of potentially winning a gold medal when the Olympic Games begin on February 5th.

“I’m just going to enjoy the experience and do the best I can, but it would be wonderful to medal.” Tennell said.

Her one day at a time attitude likely comes from her coach, who shared similar thoughts on winning a medal at the Olympics.

“We aren’t really focusing on winning,” Myers said. “I tell her everyday is different, some days are better than other days and today we’re gonna be the best we can.”

Carpentersville’s Cinderella will leave for South Korea on February 5th in search of the happy ending.

Tennell joins the following Olympians from the Chicagoland area:
Kevin Bickner, 21, ski jumping (Wauconda)
Michael Glasder, 28, ski jumping (Cary)
Lana Gehring, 27, short track speed skating (Glenview)
Casey Larson, 19, ski jumping (Barrington)
Emery Lehman, 21, long track speed skating (Oak Park)
Brian Hansen, 27, long track speed skating (Glenview)
Shani Davis, 35, long track speed skating (Chicago)
Kendall Coyne, 25, women’s hockey, (Palos Heights)
Aja Evans, 29, bobsled, (Chicago)
Alexa Knierim, 26, figure skating, (Addison)

Bradie Tennell held an open practice on Jan. 18 as she prepares for the upcoming Winter Olympics. (Erik Alcantar/MEDILL)