By Maura Sullivan Hill, Team FSO staff writer
Bradie Tennell’s suitcase was up in her room, half-packed for the 2020 World Championships in Montreal, when she heard the news that the event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was literally like somebody kicked me in the gut. I was shocked. We found out four days before we were supposed to leave,” she said. “Obviously, it was the right decision, but it was very hard for me.”
It was an anticlimactic end to Tennell’s season, which had included a silver medal at Skate America, an appearance at the Grand Prix Final, and a bronze medal at the 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Now, at home in suburban Chicago while Illinois is under stay-at-home orders, Tennell says she is “living day to day.”
“I feel like everything is so up in the air that I can’t really make plans [for next season]. Although I do have to say that it’s not quite as bad for me [to be off the ice], because I’m not injured this time,” said Tennell, who was off the ice for most of last summer with a foot injury. “Before, when I was off the ice for a while and I didn’t skate, I was injured and I really couldn’t move. But now, I’m completely healthy, so I’m grateful for that and that I can still be active and go through my day-to-day life without pain.”
She’s been roller blading and playing hockey with her two brothers in the driveway of the new home the family recently moved into, and she says they’ve taken the time at home to get unpacked and organized. A big fan of The Office and Supernatural, Tennell joked that she’s “watched all of Netflix by now,” and mixes in reading and puzzles with the TV time.
Tennell’s mom is a nurse and is working during the pandemic. “It’s been a little crazy. It is stressful,” Tennell said. “But she’s been a nurse for so long and she’s always taken such great care of me, and I know she takes care of all her patients like they were her own family members. Because I’ve grown up with her being in hospitals all the time, it is scary, but I’m optimistic.”
With her mom in the health care field, it was a natural choice for Tennell to join the Blades for the Brave livestream benefit on April 17. Hosted by U.S. Champions and Olympians Jason Brown and Gracie Gold, the event raised money for Americares, to help the organization deliver protective gear and other critically needed supplies for health workers in COVID-19 hotspots worldwide. Tennell joined a group of fellow current Olympic and international competitors for the fundraiser, as well as former champions including Dorothy Hamill, Michelle Kwan, and Sasha Cohen. It was a way to “cheer up everybody and as a way to say thank you to all the health care workers who are literally risking their lives for us,” Tennell said.
For most international competitive skaters, the spring and summer months are filled with show performances and preparation for the new season—and all of that has been delayed this year. Tennell has not started working on programs or music for next season yet, but is set on getting two new programs for the 2020-2021 season.
“I definitely want to get new programs, even with the shortened preparation time, because I like to challenge myself,” she said. “And even last year, I would say that I had shortened preparation time because of my foot injury, so it’s not a completely foreign situation for me and I definitely feel like I still have room to grow and new challenges to take on. I wouldn’t want to keep the same programs, because then I’d feel like I’m putting myself in a box and not allowing myself to have the opportunity to grow.”
Tennell was scheduled to perform in several shows on the Stars on Ice tour this year, which was cancelled, as well as a couple other fundraising ice shows throughout the spring that were cancelled or postponed.
“With something like this, it’s so out of your control, and obviously the health and safety of everybody is more important than a figure skating show,” she said. “But if everybody does their part, then hopefully it will get better quicker.”
Stay tuned to Figure Skaters Online for more on how our skaters are adapting to these unusual circumstances. Read how Sean Rabbitt is getting creative during the coronavirus pandemic here.