NASHVILLE — At the U.S Figure Skating Championships, Mariah Bell won her first national title, Karen Chen took silver and newcomer Isabeau Levito finished third. The U.S. Olympic team will be named on Saturday afternoon, when Bell, Chen and Alysa Liu, who had to withdraw after the short program due to a positive COVID-19 test, are most likely to be named to the team. (Levito is too young to qualify for the Olympics.)

That’s the nuts and bolts of what happened at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night. But as the women discussed their paths to their medals, they inadvertently became life coaches.

Read on for some lessons and strategies that we could all use right now.

Have faith in your dream

Bell made her senior debut at nationals in 2014. She’s won medals on the Grand Prix circuit. She’s even been on a few world championship teams. But until Friday night, she never stood on the top of the podium at nationals.

Next to her was Chen, who burst onto the scene by winning a bronze in her senior debut in 2014. She’s won a national championship and been to the Olympics, but injuries and inconsistency plagued her in previous seasons.

They both kept going and had a nationals to remember because they had faith in what they can do.

“Last year, I was pretty sad leaving Las Vegas, just, I had a great season kind of leading up and just didn't deliver at nationals. ... And with kind of everything going on with COVID that was just the end of my season. And that was pretty strange," Bell said. "So I took some time off and really decided that I was just going to not hold back this year. And there are a lot of things that happened this (season) for me. And I'm really proud of just how I've been able to just keep, you know, fighting for this ultimate goal.”


Mariah Bell competes in the women's free skate program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Let yourself freak out about frightening things, but put a clock on it

When Chen found out about Liu’s positive test, she was reasonably upset by it. Skaters are vaccinated and boosted, and they are social-distancing, wearing masks everywhere but the ice and taking extra precautions including not even seeing family after they skate. However, with the nature of the Omicron variant, a competitor testing positive is scary.

“The news was very, very shocking and super unfortunate to hear. I gave myself like 10 minutes to just like full-on freak out about it," Chen said. "That's my thing now. I tend to just overthink and overanalyze, so I told myself, 'OK, you can think about this for 10 minutes, and then after that, you got to focus on your skating.' And so that's just kind of what I did to help myself just stay as grounded as I could."


Karen Chen competes in the women's free skate program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

When you feel lost, get a dog

At last year’s nationals, Bell was a favorite and expected to make the world championship team. Instead, she fell in the free skate and finished fifth. When she started preparing for this season last summer, it was hard to shake off the disappointment from those nationals.

“There was a time in the summer where I felt a little bit lost. Like I wasn't really sure, I just felt unorganized," Bell said. "There had been a lot that was going on and I just decided that I was going to just do the easy things that I knew I could do well, and I was going to build up from there. And I think doing that kind of gave me a really great base. And then I was able to just get to a point where I could add in the other things as the season went on.

"And then I also got a dog, so she helped me a lot actually just to have something fun outside of the rink. Because I knew this was going to be a stressful season in general, and so yeah, she's a puppy and she's amazing. So I felt like I had good balance and I was just doing things that made me feel good and that helped build my confidence.”

If you want to quit something, stick it out a little bit longer before you walk away for good

When Bell was young, she told her parents she was done with skating. They said that was fine, but they had just bought a pack of classes.

“My mom was like, 'The only thing I want you to do is finish what you start. So just finish this out. You don't have to do it anymore. You won't ever pick up a pair of skates again,'" Bell recalled. "And it came to that point, and now it's like, 'I don't know, maybe I still want to skate.'

"So I always kind of got pulled back into it, but it's never been something that's been forced on me. If I told my parents today, I wanted to quit, they would (say) we support you, but in the same sense, they've always really given me all the tools and support to chase my dreams. And my parents have sacrificed a lot for me.”

Age is just a numberfor both young and old

This was Levito’s senior debut, and she will turn 15 in two months. Bell is the oldest skater — at 25 — to win the national championship in 97 years. The trend for skating internationally, particularly in Russia, favors younger skaters. But that hasn’t stopped Bell.

“I think the idea of kind of wanting to show that age is just a number is part of what keeps me going. But also I do love skating and I have individual golden dreams and things that I want to do, (but) obviously someday that'll come to an end," Bell said. "But right now I have all these goals and aspirations for myself. So that's really what keeps me going."

If you fall ... get up

Gracie Gold won a team bronze at the 2014 Olympics, and she’s won two national championships. After struggling in her 2016-17 season, Gold took a step back from skating to deal with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. Her journey back to the ice wasn’t easy, but she took one more crack at making the Olympic team this week. Her short program was nothing short of magical.

While her free program failed to recapture the magic from the night before because of an early mistake on a jump, Gold’s mere presence on the ice showed that her hard work had paid off.

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