SAN JOSE, Calif. — Rising star Bradie Tennell's near-perfect free skate Friday night earned her a national title and almost certainly a spot on the U.S. team for next month's Olympics.
Tennell was spotless in the short program two days ago, then as the final skater in the long program she didn't miss a trick under tremendous pressure. Her top competitors, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen, already had put down superb routines.
"I just had to keep calm and focus on what I knew I could do," Tennell said. "There's the initial butterflies, but I kind of start to lose myself and keep going.
"It's indescribable to me."
Nagasu, U.S. champ 10 years ago, capped a sensationally sweet comeback with a flowing performance to finish second, virtually assuring a spot in next month's Olympics — a berth she was denied four years ago by the selection committee. That position for Sochi was given to Ashley Wagner, who had finished fourth, one spot behind Nagasu, but had a better overall record.
Chen, the defending champion, was third and Wagner was fourth.
The three women headed to the Pyeongchang Games will be announced today.
After overpowering the entry and two-footing the triple axel that no other American woman tries, Nagasu hit six triple jumps, including a loop in the final seconds of a stirring program. Nagasu shattered her personal best by nearly 20 points with a 213.84.
Chen had 198.59 score. Tennell came on with a career best of 219.51.
A long shot heading into the season, Tennell announced herself as an Olympic team threat with a third place at Skate America, then ratcheted up everything for nationals.
Earlier, favorites Maia and Alex Shibutani outdistanced their top competition in the short dance. The free dance is Sunday.