Mariah Bell and Karen Chen, who went one-two at the national championships, and two-time U.S. champ Alysa Liu comprise the Olympic women’s figure skating team chosen by a committee.
Bell, Chen and Liu were the favorites to make up the team before the U.S. Championships, which finished Friday night. A selection committee then chose the team, looking at each skater’s results dating to the 2021 U.S. Championships.
“I’m just so grateful,” Bell told Andrea Joyce during the broadcast of making the team. “It’s something that I’ve been working toward for a very long time. I’m so excited and so honored, and it still doesn’t feel real.
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After Bell and Chen took gold and silver, the only business left was to consider Liu’s petition. The 16-year-old tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday morning, after placing third in the short program, but remained eligible for the team. She said she is vaccinated and was feeling well.
Skaters who successfully petition must be able to prove the ability to perform full competition programs by a specified date and be medically approved to compete at the Olympics.
In case any of the skaters can’t compete, the alternates are, in order, Lindsay Thorngren (fifth at nationals, fifth-ranked American this season), Amber Glenn (fourth-ranked American this season, withdrew from nationals due to Covid-19) and Gabriella Izzo (fourth at nationals, sixth-ranked American this season).
Liu had a strong case, given she is the highest-ranked American by best international score this season. Liu ranks fifth in the world when excluding extra Russians who will not be at the Olympics.
Liu, who in 2019 became the youngest U.S. senior champion at age 13, could be competitive for a medal if a Russian falters, or if she adds a triple Axel or quadruple jump to her arsenal. She hasn’t landed either cleanly in competition since the March 2020 World Junior Championships.
Bell, 25 and ranked eighth among skaters expected at the Olympics, is set to become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928 after becoming the oldest women’s national champion since 1927. She won her first national title in her ninth senior nationals appearance, also a women’s record.
“Age is literally a number,” Bell said. “It means nothing. If you have a dream, there is no limit on the time you have to achieve that dream, for sure.”
Chen, a 22-year-old who was 11th in PyeongChang, is set to be the first U.S. women’s singles skater to compete in back-to-back Olympics since Sasha Cohen in 2002 and 2006.
“It honestly means so, so much, especially considering after 2018 I did think about stepping away from the sport but I’m really happy that I didn’t,” Chen said. “I kept chasing my dreams and being as fearless as possible, and here I am.”
The rest of the Olympic figure skating team — three men, three ice dance couples and two pairs’ teams — will be named after those competitions conclude at nationals in Nashville later this weekend.
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