Local Olympic hopefuls have one last competition to make their case before U.S. Figure Skating selects the team heading to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
The U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, CA is the final qualifying competition before Team USA is officially announced. The Olympic selection committee will take into account the results of this competition, as well as athletes’ full body of work in prior competitions.
The U.S. has qualified three ladies, three men, one pair team and three ice dance teams to compete in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Despite the crowded field of talented skaters, several local athletes are hoping to earn their spot.
Jason Brown, men’s singles
Hometown: Highland Park, IL
Accolades: 2015 U.S. National Champion; 2014 Sochi Olympic Team Bronze Medalist
Brown, 23, is hoping to return to the Olympic Games, after a few seasons marked with highs and lows. After the Sochi Games, Brown was on top, winning the U.S. national title in 2015. He had to sit out of the competition the following year, following a back injury.
Brown is back with a memorable short program skate to tunes from the hit musical Hamilton.
The Highland Park High graduate became a viral sensation during the 2014 Olympic Games for his larger-than-life personality and his ponytail.
“I felt that Chicago support, and I was getting so many texts and videos. It was so amazing, and I can’t really believe any of it,” Brown said.
Alexa Scimeca-Knierim, pairs
Hometown: Addison, IL
Accolades: 2015 U.S. National Pairs Champion
Scimeca-Knierim is aiming for the sole pairs spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. The 26-year-old first learned to skate at the Addison Park District as a child, and switched to pairs skating shortly after high school.
Scimeca-Knierim found more than just success with her pairs partner. She married Chris Knierim in June 2016.
“Having such a great relationship together, and using it on and off the ice, it kind of separates us from everyone else,” said Chris Knierim.
The couple faced their biggest test yet last spring and summer when Scimeca-Knierim was diagnosed with a mysterious illness that not only kept her off the ice, but required three abdominal surgeries and months of uncertainty.
“My journey has shaped Chris and I into better people and athletes, just because we had to endure so much pain and we have learned from it,” said Scimeca-Knierim. “It makes the day-to-day a little easier because we know how lucky we are.”
Bradie Tennell, women’s singles
Hometown: Carpentersville, IL
Accolades: 2017 Skate America bronze medalist; 2015 U.S. National Junior Champion
If anyone has forced her name into the Olympic conversation, it’s Bradie Tennell.
In her senior Grand Prix debut over Thanksgiving weekend, the 19-year-old won bronze, placing the highest of any other American woman. Tennell, who still skates at the Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, attributed her success to her years of training.
“One competition at a time,” said Tennell. “I have to get through nationals first. Right now, that’s my big focus.”
Still, Tennell said she has allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to make the Olympic team.
“It’s a moment I dreamed about since I was a little girl,” said Tennell.