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'She's a machine:' Figure skater Bradie Tennell suddenly a gold medal contender

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Olympics

When she was 10, Bradie Tennell was with her coach at a skating competition when they heard a mom talking to her daughter.

"The mom said, 'That Bradie Tennell, she'll never beat you,' " Tennell's longtime coach, Denise Myers, recalled. "I was with Bradie and I turned to her and said: 'Don't worry about it. You can't control that. You just be the best you can be.' "

Tennell won that competition.

The soft-spoken athlete competes in a powder-blue sequined ensemble to a delicate song titled "Cinderella."

But make no mistake: She's a fighter.

"I'm always striving to be better," Tennell said. "My biggest competitor is myself."

That grit and power -- exemplified in her strong jumps -- propelled the Carpentersville, Ill., resident to her first U.S. figure skating championship in January after a nearly flawless performance. Suddenly she's a contender to win gold at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"I called her ... a scrapper," said Myers, who began training Tennell in Buffalo Grove, Ill., about 10 years ago. "She wouldn't give up. She fought for what she wanted."

Tennell was considered a little-known up-and-comer before winning bronze at Skate America in November.

"She is a machine," 1998 Olympic gold medalist and NBC analyst Tara Lipinski said after Tennell's performance. "She has nerves of steel. I have so much trust in her leading into these Olympic Games as a rookie."

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