Mariah Bell proud to have never given up on her Olympic dream

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Whenever Mariah Bell lived in the same place long enough to make new friends and explore her neighborhood, her father’s job in the oil and gas industry sent the family packing.

She was born in Tulsa, Okla., but as a child she also lived in the Houston area and several places in Colorado and probably had more addresses than she can remember. “We moved about every three or four years,” said Bell, whose parents split their time between Dallas and Switzerland. “I went to four different elementary schools because we were moving around.”

Figure skating was a comforting constant in her life. The leaps, spins and spirals were the same wherever she went, and she immersed herself in their execution with her exquisite musicality and ethereal lightness. Skating has become a common language regardless of the local accent.

“Wherever we live, I could always skate. That’s also a big part of why I love skating so much — because it always felt like home,” he said. she stated.

Her passion for a sport whose scoring system rewards jumping prodigies more than mature performers like her has helped 25-year-old Bell stay competitive and compelling at an age when many singles skaters are retired.

Bell won her first U.S. Women’s Championship in January on her ninth try at the senior level, becoming the oldest woman to win the national title since the triumph of 26-year-old Beatrix Loughran in 1927. Bell was nominated for a place in the Beijing Olympics with 22- Karen Chen, 11, who placed 11th at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, and Alysa Liu, 16, who will be the youngest member of the 223-person U.S. Winter Olympic Team.

Unlike Bell, Liu enjoyed quick and early success, using her exceptional jumping ability to win two US titles before being set back by injuries and puberty. Liu finished third after the short program at this year’s US Championships but pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19. There was no debate when the selection committee, hoping that Liu would salvage her best jumps – and possibly gain experience for the 2026 Games – named her to the Beijing team. .

Mariah Bell competes in an ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating even in Sochi, Russia on November 26.

(Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)

“She won her first senior national championships at 13, I won my first senior national championships at 25. That’s how her life went and my life went,” said Bell. “Everyone’s journey is different. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s done really well over the past few years. It’s hard growing up, growing up, all those things, and she did so well. I’m honored to be part of the Olympic team with her.

While some of Bell’s contemporaries have advanced degrees or corporate titles or made their fortunes in startups at age 25, she doesn’t feel like she missed out on anything because she followed. his heart.

“Of course, there are people who have jobs and are junior vice presidents or whatever, but I become an Olympian. So few people can say that,” she said.

“I’ve never really talked about my age myself because it really has no effect on me personally, but it’s something a lot of people have talked about. I think it’s just because in skate culture and a lot of things, it seems like when you’re younger it’s better, and maybe it is, but it’s definitely not.

Many elite skaters are homeschooled or take online classes to fit their schedules, but Bell attended public high school in Arvada, Colorado, and only focused on skating. after graduating. She didn’t win a national title as a teenager, but she had a life off the ice, which surely helped her avoid burnout.

Bell agreed with this compromise. She credits her parents, Kendra and Andrew, for creating a positive atmosphere for her and her sister Morgan, who skated in Disney ice shows and became a coach. “They sacrificed a lot to get us in the best position to pursue our dreams, but it was never contingent on us winning. We never had to win, we never had to be ultra-successful. They just wanted us to work hard and enjoy what we were doing, dedicate ourselves to it, and those results just followed,” said Bell, who moved to Southern California in 2016 and trained at Lakewood before following coach Rafael Arutyunyan’s Great Park Ice to Irvine in 2019.

“I think that’s also another reason why I was able to do it for so long and why I was able to fully enjoy it. My parents played such an important role during the whole trip, and my older sister too.

No American skater has won a singles medal at the last three Olympics, a drought that is likely to continue as Bell, Chen and Liu cannot match the Russians’ many quadruple jumps. Kamila Valieva, 15, who landed two quads in her free skate while winning the European Championship, is the Olympic favorite, but Anna Shcherbakova (2021 world champion) and Alexandra Trusova, 17, also have quads in their repertoire and can challenge it.

Mariah Bell gets a standing ovation from the crowd after her free skate routine at the US Figure Skating Championships.

Mariah Bell gets a standing ovation from the crowd after her free skating routine at the US Figure Skating Championships on January 7.

(Mark Zaleski/Associated Press)

Bell practiced a 3½-rotation triple axle but did not try quads. She knows she will be at a distinct disadvantage against the Russians, but cannot add a quad right now. “They go square, square, with more technical content than any of the American ladies or any other ladies in the world,” Bell said. “But the ice is slippery. They are not flawless. They are incredible athletes, but they also make mistakes. And so the best thing anyone – them, me or any other skateboarder can do – is to build on their own strengths.

After winning his U.S. title, Bell called his vast experience a superpower. She hopes to build on this and produce a performance for the ages, a performance that will make her age irrelevant. “I’m really honored that this is sort of my story,” she said, “but what I would like people to know is that if you’re dedicated and driven to do something, you should keep chasing your dreams.”

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