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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

"I knew it wasn't a career-ending injury," she said. "People have come back from far worse."

Tennell started skating when she was 2. Her mother would come home about 7 a.m. from her overnight shift as a nurse, and little Bradie would be eagerly waiting.

"She would meet me at the door and say, 'Mommy, please take me ice skating,' " Jean Tennell said. "I have no idea where she got that idea. It just became repetitive. 'When can we go?' She wasn't going to let up on it."

Jean looked up a rink in the telephone book and found Crystal Ice House in Crystal Lake, Ill.

"She took me skating, and I've never wanted to stop," Bradie Tennell said.

Jean Tennell, who also has two teenage sons who play hockey, said she never pressured her daughter into competition.

"I wasn't one of those moms going: 'Come on. You've got to go. Do you want to make the Olympics?' " she said. "Never, ever, ever did I talk like that. I'm a mom who never says, 'No, you can't do that.' I say: 'Anything is possible. They're going to send someone. Why not you?' "

Bradie Tennell credits her mom for shuffling her to lessons and helping her pursue her dream. She calls her mom her role model and "No. 1 supporter."

"There were many sacrifices," said Tennell, who was home-schooled and has taken online college courses. "She works nights so that she could be home with us during the day. She's skipped meals. She's gone without sleep. I can't even begin to name all of the things."

After Tennell started competing, her mother connected with Myers about 10 years ago to become her daughter's coach. Tennell's consistency with her coach and rink is not exactly common among Olympians, who switch coaches as they excel and often move to other cities to train.

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