Mariah Bell eyes Beijing berth: 'This is definitely something I believe I can do'

Three spots are up for grabs among the American women at the U.S. Championships, with two-time national champ Bradie Tennell out. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier have withdrawn from the pairs event, too.

By Nick McCarvel & Scott Bregman
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

While women's figure skating has become a teenager's icy playground the past two Olympic cycles, 25-year-old Mariah Bell is showing experience can count - for a lot.

"Making an Olympic Games is incredible and something that I definitely believe that I can do and want to do," Bell said after a practice session at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday (5 January).

She added: "But at the end of the day, it is just another even; it's literally another competition. And so it doesn't take away or really add to what I've already done. But it is very exciting to be in this position and to know that I have this amazing opportunity."

The three-time national medallist is one of a handful of skaters in the hunt for one of three women's spots for the Winter Olympic Games Beijing 2022, set to kick off next month.

Bell, along with two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu and 2017 winner Karen Chen, are among the favourites - and will look to lock in their Olympic spots after two-time U.S. winner Bradie Tennell withdrew from the event last week due to a foot injury.

Both the women's and pairs events will begin on Thursday (6 January) in Nashville.

The pairs event will be without its reigning national champion team, as well: Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier withdrew on Wednesday. Frazier had tested positive for Covid-19, U.S. Figure Skating announced.

Two spots are up for grabs in pairs, with former U.S. champs Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, two-time medallist Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov in contention.

The U.S. Championships are not an Olympic trials, with skaters' body of work being measured for their Olympic qualification, including how they've performed on the international circuit. The U.S. team will be announced over the weekend.

MORE: Full preview of U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Karen Chen puts experience into perspective

Bell's fellow twenty-something is Chen, who, unlike Mariah, has Olympic experience having qualified for the U.S. team for PyeongChang 2018.

The 22-year-old says she's approaching this event like any other year, however.

"I think what's really helped ground me is to just think about [the fact] that every year there is nationals," said Chen. "And so I just kind of think of it this way instead of putting that like pressure of making the Olympic team."

Chen has switched back to her short program from the 2014-15 season, Requiem for a Dream.

"I decided that I really needed music that got me into the fighting spirit," she said. "I wanted something that was familiar so it wasn't a huge change for me, but also something that I truly love and excites me."

Bell is hoping her experience is helpful, as well, having place fifth at nationals in 2018. She's got coach Adam Rippon at the boards with her this week.

"I didn't have the experience" in 2018, Bell said. "[Now], I've been to several worlds. I've medalled at nationals several times. I've medalled at Grand Prix [events], I've won Senior Bs. This is really just another competition that, regardless of what the outcome is, I just want to do my best and try my best."

She continued: "The thing I've really learned over the last couple of years is just to focus on my skating. What can I do the best? There's no other Mariah. You know... What can Mariah bring that's really amazing and good quality? And that's what I've really been focusing on."

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