Bradie Tennell wins Skate America short program to stake claim for home title
Team USA's Bradie Tennell delivered a solid short program to take the lead in the women's competition at Skate America and strengthen her hopes of a home title in Las Vegas.
There was a standing ovation for 21-year-old Tennell from the Orleans Arena crowd as she posted a clean skate for a personal best score of 75.10, landing a triple Lutz, triple toeloop combination, a double Axel and a triple flip.
Tennell, an Olympic bronze medallist in the team event at PyeongChang 2018, said after her performance that she had only returned to full training a month prior after suffering a broken foot in the summer.
"Before my injury, I really can't remember the last time that I didn't have pain on the ice with my feet but it got really bad at the beginning of July and then it started getting progressively worse very quickly," said Tennell.
"I was just completely off the ice for a while, in a boot. I was in the boot for about two months and I only went back to full training about one month ago."
The American now has the advantage heading into Saturday's free skate but was quick to point out that anything can happen.
She added: "I feel like there's a lot of buzz about whoever is in first after the short, but every day is a new day... going into the free skate, it's a clean slate."
Reigning Japanese national champion Kaori Sakamoto was not far behind Tennell, posting a clean skate of her own to take second place with 73.25.
Skating to 'No Roots' by Alice Merton, Sakamoto says there is room to develop the choreography in her new program.
"This program is meant to be performed with crispness," she said. "If it's done correctly, it's a really cool program. Right now, I'm really concentrating on my jumps; so I want to make my jumps more consistent so I can concentrate on my choreography."
Wakaba Higuchi, the 2018 world silver medallist, enjoyed a welcome return to form after an injury-hit season last year, securing more success for Japan with 71.76 and third place.
Promising young talent Anna Shcherbakova of Russia landed all of her jumps but a fall during her step sequence towards the end of her program saw her score take a hit and left her out of the podium places.
The 15-year-old, making her senior Grand Prix debut in Las Vegas, will be hoping to make up ground in Saturday's free skate, where she is planning two quadruple Lutz jumps. She is the only female skater in the field who is competing with a quad.
"I was a little bit nervous but I think like every time," said Shcherbakova. "I made my jumps, not so good but it was ok.
"But then there was a very stupid mistake and every other time I'll try to focus more on my skating and not to do such mistakes."
The tight table should make for an exciting free skate on Saturday, when Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, currently in fifth, will hope her two planned triple Axels can vault her back into the medal spots.
Team USA leads ice dance competition
Earlier, in the ice dance rhythm dance, home favourites and 2019 world bronze medallists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue earned an impressive 83.45 to secure the lead ahead of the free skate.
It was a personal best for the Team USA duo, skating to a medley including Cole Porter's 'My Heart Belongs To Daddy'.
"Zach and I were so pleased to begin our season here at Skate America," said Hubbell. "It's our first time ever jumping right into the Grand Prix season. I feel like we have so much progress to make on the program but it was a great performance for today."
It was really exciting for me to debut the Marilyn Monroe character. - Madison Hubbell
She added: "It was really exciting for me to debut the Marilyn Monroe character. It's something I dreamed of skating to for many years so it was great to actualise that here in Las Vegas."
Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were close behind in second place with 80.46 following their crowd-pleasing Moulin Rouge skate.
Canada's Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen closed out the podium places with 77.85 ahead of Saturday's free.