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Figure skating-Bell wins first U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Randy Mancini 3 Jan 8
Figure Skating: 2022 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Jan 7, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Madison Chock and Evan Bates skate during the championship rhythm dance program at the 2022 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

January 8, 2022

(Reuters) -Mariah Bell put in a strong free skate performance to win gold at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday, her first national title in nine appearances.

Bell was awarded 140.70 points in her free skate and managed a total of 216.25 points to beat Karen Chen (213.85) and Isabeau Levito (210.75) to first place.

“I’m just really grateful to be here and be competing,” Bell told NBC. “I was really nervous for this program and just tried my best to stay in the moment, grab every point. I’m just so honored and grateful to be national champion.

“I’m going to cry. It’s something I’ve been working for a really long time.”

Bell’s victory has also strengthened her case as a pick for the three-woman Olympic team for the Beijing Games, which will be announced on Saturday.

Earlier on Friday, the ice dancing pair of Madison Chock and Evan Bates put on a nearly flawless rhythm dance routine to put them in position to win their third national championship.

Going last and performing to a medley of songs by Billie Eilish, they mesmerized the Nashville crowd with their clean skating and electrifying lifts to earn the only standing ovation of the day and a 91.94 from the judges.

They will look to claim the title and solidify their position on the U.S.’s three-team Beijing Olympic squad when they return for the free dance on Saturday.

“It is certainly not our first rodeo, but it’s our favourite rodeo,” Chock said.

“We love doing the U.S. Championships. The audience is incredible and we really felt their energy and support out there.”

Reigning national champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who previously announced that the 2021-22 season would be their last, opened the door to their rivals after delivering a shaky performance, which earned them a 89.39.

“Not my best,” said Hubbell.

“I’m a little bit confused really. We’ve been training so consistently, feeling really strong and prepared, and today every element took me by surprise… but seeing everyone cheering us on despite the mistakes, it was meaningful.”

The rising pair of Caroline Green and Michael Parsons were third with 80.85.

The championships are the last competition before next month’s Olympics. The United States will name its three ice dancing teams after the competition wraps up this weekend.

The Games would be Chock and Bates’ third together and Hubbell and Donohue’s second.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Aadi Nair in BengaluruEditing by Christian Radnedge and Lincoln Feast.)