In a season where most competitions were cancelled, or postponed and then cancelled, U.S. Figure Skating was able to pull off their 2021 U.S. Championships with a modified bubble format.
The competition was originally scheduled for San Jose, CA, but after the success of the bubble model at the 2020 Skate America in Las Vegas, U.S. Figure Skating moved the event to Vegas and the Orleans Arena. With no on-site media, I was able to cover the event from home over Zoom, for Figure Skaters Online. I hadn’t planned to attend the event in person this year, even if it had been more of a “normal” competition setup, so this was an unexpected bonus for me. I know lots of my fellow skating media members were bummed not to be there in person, so we’re already excited for 2022 Nationals, which will be in my backyard at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville!
Covering an event over Zoom requires multiple screens and monopolizing the TV for a long weekend, plus lots of quick typing and transcribing during press conferences and mixed zones. It was fun to cover it with the team at FSO, and we put together some great coverage of each event, plus a bonus article about some of the competitors beyond the podiums. You can check them all out, plus great photos from our on-site photographer Robin Ritoss, at our U.S. Championships Hub.
I covered the ladies and pairs events, and contributed to our “Sin City Statements” recap. Check them all out here:
A side note to this coverage: I definitely had questions about Tennell’s participation in this event. Her coach was not in Las Vegas because he had COVID-19, and one of her training mates tested positive upon arrival at the competition. It seems like any skater from that rink should have had to withdraw, based on the criteria that led to dance team Carreira/Ponomarenko and three pairs entrants from Colorado withdrawing (Full details on that here, via NBC Sports). Each of those teams said that the event rules called for them to withdraw after exposure to a positive case of COVID-19, despite their own negative tests. Allowing Tennell, and any other skaters who were in the vicinity of those two positive cases to compete, seemingly jeopardized the entire bubble. The always-thoughtful Alicia and Mary posted a similar analysis right after the event over on the Flutzes and Waxels podcast, in their ladies recap episode, which is worth a listen!
Pairs is certainly not my area of expertise in the skating world, and this was my first time officially covering a pairs competition. Every time I watch this discipline, I’m consistently wowed by the athleticism of the skaters!
Sin City Statements
It wasn’t just the medalists who shined in the Sin City during the 2021 U.S. Championships. The U.S. Championships in Las Vegas marked the senior nationals debut for a number of skaters. There were some other special stories that came out of the event, from new partnerships, debuting new programs to seeking inspiration from Olympians for costumes. Figure Skaters Online’s Gina Capellazzi and Maura Sullivan Hill spoke with these skaters that had other accomplishments and victories that went beyond the podium.
Thanks for reading and supporting here and over at Figure Skaters Online!