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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

Since being named to the Olympic team, Tennell has been welcomed into figure skating's inner circle.

She got a phone call from 1968 gold medalist Peggy Fleming. At an Olympic meet-and-greet event recently, a woman who said she was 1956 gold medalist Tenley Albright's daughter gave Tennell a gold necklace of the Olympic rings she bought the 1972 Olympics with her mother.

Tennell said she plans to never remove the necklace.

She's even been recognized around town by strangers -- a flattering but unique experience for the homebody athlete who prefers reading and baking.

"I'm kind of dealing with it," she said of the new attention. "I've gotten more used to it."

While Tennell is being depicted as an overnight sensation heading into the Olympics, she has already endured significant trials in her career.

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Tennell, 20, battled through two stress fractures in her back, causing her to wear a brace and sit out of skating for three-month stretches.

She made her mark as a rising star when she won the 2015 junior U.S. championships. But a few months later, Tennell suffered the back injury. She returned to place sixth in the 2016 nationals and 11th at the world juniors.

Another back injury sidelined her again. She returned in 2017 to place ninth at the nationals and seventh at the worlds.

Tennell said she knew the back problems wouldn't stop her.

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