Carpentersville skater's gold adds to suburban medal count

  • Bradie Tennell skates during her gold medal-winning performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

    Bradie Tennell skates during her gold medal-winning performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, takes off her skates after practicing Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, takes off her skates after practicing Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell talks with her coach of seven years, Denise Myers, during practice Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell talks with her coach of seven years, Denise Myers, during practice Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, practices Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, talks to her coach, Denise Myers, during practice Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove.

    Bradie Tennell, 16, of Carpentersville, who won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend, talks to her coach, Denise Myers, during practice Tuesday at Twin Rinks Ice Pavillion in Buffalo Grove. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO Figure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here in 2009 when she was 12, performs a sit spin during practice.

    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO Figure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here in 2009 when she was 12, performs a sit spin during practice.

  • DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTOFigure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here in 2009 when she was 12, performs a Victory Leg Lift during practice.

    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTOFigure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here in 2009 when she was 12, performs a Victory Leg Lift during practice.

  • DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO Figure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here in 2009 as a 12-year-old, practices before performing in the Junior Superstars Show.

    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO Figure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here in 2009 as a 12-year-old, practices before performing in the Junior Superstars Show.

  • DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTOFigure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here at age 12, performs a Biehlman Spin during a 2009 workout.

    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTOFigure skater Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, pictured here at age 12, performs a Biehlman Spin during a 2009 workout.

  • Bradie Tennell, right, was 10 in this photo, taken at the Hoffman Estates Park District Community Center and Ice Arena, where she took a special master class with the stars of Disney's High School Musical on Ice.

    Bradie Tennell, right, was 10 in this photo, taken at the Hoffman Estates Park District Community Center and Ice Arena, where she took a special master class with the stars of Disney's High School Musical on Ice. Daily Herald File Photo 2008/Mark Welsh

 
 
Updated 1/28/2015 10:26 AM

When Bradie Tennell boarded the bus after the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in North Carolina, the driver asked the skater how she did.

"I did well," the 16-year-old Carpentersville girl meekly told him.

 

Yeah, she did pretty well.

Tennell won the junior ladies title and gold medal, making her the newest member of an elite group of champion and potential Olympic skaters from the Chicago suburbs. She is one of 11 suburban figure skaters to win medals at nationals last weekend.

"She's headed for the Olympics. There's no doubt," said Debbi Bram, who works at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, where Tennell trains. Olympians Jason Brown and Gracie Gold also have trained there.

Brown, of Highland Park, and pairs skater Alexa Scimeca, of Addison, also took home gold medals at last weekend's national competition.

Suburban skaters winning silver or bronze medals were Danny O'Shea of Gurnee; Alex Benoit of Lisle; Maxine Marie Bautista, a member of the DuPage Figure Skating Club; Olivia Allan of Elmhurst; Lindsay Weinstein of Buffalo Grove; Jacob Simon of Highland Park; Daniel Turchin of Buffalo Grove; and Gracie Gold, a one-time Elk Grove Village resident and member of the Crystal Lake-based Wagon Wheel Figure Skating Club.

The strong showing by suburban figure skaters at the U.S. championships further cements the suburbs' reputation as a world-class skating hub. Some of the best figure, hockey and speed skaters in the world were raised here or train here. The Northbrook Speed Skating Club, for example, has 19 Olympians among its alumni.

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People come from all over the country to train in suburban ice rinks. There are a couple of skaters from Argentina now training at Twin Rinks, said Tennell's coach, Denise Myers.

"More and more, we're getting that recognition we deserve," said Myers, who's been coaching for 30 years. "Maybe it's not Colorado Springs," she said, referring to the site of the United States Olympic Training Center. "However, there are a lot of very talented kids here, and a lot of medalists that come through this arena. I think we have it all. You don't need to leave."

The next Winter Olympics aren't until 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but odds are looking good that Team USA will include at least one suburban skater.

Myers said getting on an Olympic figure skating team is a "needle in a haystack" chance, but it can happen.

Junior title winners such as Gold and Polina Edmunds have gone on to do great things at the senior level, including win Olympic medals, said U.S. Figure Skating spokeswoman Renee Felton.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tennell has been skating since she was 2 years old. Her mom, Jean Tennell, remembers holding her up as they glided around in circles.

"She did not want to stop," Jean said. "All she wanted to do was go ice skating after that."

A single mom and night nurse at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Jean Tennell home-schools Bradie and her two younger brothers.

Described by Myers as a sweet, humble girl and "scrappy" competitor, Bradie Tennell admits she'd love to skate in the Olympics. But she knows a lot can happen between now and 2018, so she's adopted a "one competition at a time" mindset.

At nationals, Tennell blew away the competitors in the junior division, scoring a personal best 176.36 points. Skating to music from the movie "Far and Away," she did a triple-toe triple-toe, a double axel triple-toe, a triple Lutz-double toe, and a triple Lutz.

"My goal was just to put on two clean programs and score more than 100 points, and I did it," she said. "When I heard the scores, I thought it was somebody else. I started to cry, but then I realized I had makeup on, so I stopped."

Jean Tennell described the moment as "surreal."

"You see her skating on the same ice as all these champions, and now she's one of them," Bradie's mom said.

Bradie arrived home from nationals Monday night and was back on the ice practicing Tuesday morning at Twin Rinks, working both with Myers and a top choreographer flown in from California.

Tennell is now an alternate for the junior worlds competition in Estonia and will compete at the Junior Grand Prix international competition later this year. She'll also graduate to the senior level. She started working on her senior-level routine Tuesday.

"This is where it all begins," said Myers, Tennell's coach for the past seven years.

Tennell practices for four hours a day on the ice, plus ballet, dance, choreography, stretching and warm-ups. She prefers books to TV or computers and shares a cellphone with her mom.

She doesn't have any social media accounts, but she plans to start a Facebook page soon, as fans want to follow her. Young skaters have started recognizing her and asking for her autograph.

"When you see somebody who is successful, and she doesn't put herself on a pedestal ... it's refreshing to see. It couldn't have happened to a better person," said Twin Rinks skating director Laura Kaplan. "She truly is one of the kids where she is nice to everybody. That's what's so nice about this."

Skater: Bradie has been skating since she was 2

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