I’m really stoked with the results from this week and my performances. —Angela Wang
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Angela Wang skated onto the ice at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, gliding in between Olympians and U.S. champions and just tried to enjoy how it felt to be at home among the accomplished.
The 21-year-old Salt Lake native finished seventh at the U.S. Championship, skating about 25 minutes before 19-year-old Bradie Tennell completed her upset with a stunning and near-flawless free skate that earned her 145.72 and a combined score of 219.51 to edge 2008 U.S. champion and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu, who earned silver with her 213.84 points.
“I really don’t think it’s sunk in quite yet,” said Tennell, who has struggled with injuries the past two seasons. “I’m still kind of shocked.”
Finishing third was 2017 U.S. Champion Karen Chen, who totaled 198.59. Three-time U.S. champion and 2014 Olympian Ashley Wagner finished fourth with 196.19 points.
Wang said just warming up alongside those women was rewarding.
“It was really exciting to be in the final warm-up group for the first time,” Wang said after earning 121.01 for her free skate Friday night to finish with 188.01 points. “I had a lot of fun out there. It was definitely my best U.S. championships ever. I’m really stoked with the results from this week and my performances.”
Wang said she came into this weekend's competition just hoping to perform the way she’d been practicing.
“(I) just (wanted to) put out strong programs like I do in practice,” she said. “Really, just perform how I train. It was good to be able to skate the way I did.”
She said she learned her skills match her desire.
“(I learned) that I can and I do belong on that big stage and in that final warm-up group,” she said with a smile. “I’ve always felt like I belonged out there with them, so it was really cool to be able to experience it.”
She said competing alongside the women who will represent the U.S. in Pyeongchang next month was a very different experience.
“The energy and everything is so different,” she said of the final group of women at Friday’s championships. “So it was just awesome being out there.”
Tennell said dealing with injuries has been a test of her physical and mental strength, even as she continued to nurture her Olympic dream.
“It’s been kind of a long road,” she said. “My main goal was to stay healthy. I knew it was an Olympic year, so I kept it in the back of my mind all season and put out clean programs and tried to rely on my training.”
Wang, like the favorite to win the men’s U.S. championship, Nathan Chen, began skating after Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympic Games. Chen posted the top score in the men’s short program on Thursday and will try to defend his 2017 title on Saturday night.
“That’s one of the reasons I started skating,” she said. “They had a lot of practice rinks built, and there was a lot of hype. I love so many things (about skating). Just being able to go in and train day in and day out, and go out and compete and perform and have experiences like this where you get to be with the best in the country skating out there in front of great fans.”
She said she isn’t sure what’s next for her, but that she will be watching the men’s competition on Saturday night.
“There are a lot of decisions to be made, so I’m not really sure,” she said.
Among those decisions are which skaters will represent the U.S. at the 2018 Olympics next month. There were just fractions of points separating Chen and fourth-place finisher Wagner, and the decision makers consider the entire season’s results when choosing the three women who will make the Olympic team.
The final decision about which three skaters will represent the U.S. at the Olympics will be announced Saturday morning at 6 a.m. (MT) on "The Today Show."