LAS VEGAS -- As expected, Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell finished on top of the women's short program at Skate America on Friday night.
Kicking off a truncated figure skating season in the first event of the Grand Prix series, Bell was smooth and solid in a program choreographed by 2018 Olympian Adam Rippon. Her 76.48 points were more than enough to beat Tennell, who had 73.29 and was marked down for under-rotation on her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination.
Bell, whose sensational free skate at the national championships in January earned her a silver medal behind two-time champion Alysa Liu -- who is too young to compete in senior internationals -- was grateful for the opportunity to display her routine. Skate America is one of only four series events for 2020-21, with two others in Canada and France canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It was very interesting to not have a crowd here,'' Bell said. "We are so fortunate to have this event. I really enjoyed getting to skate today.''
Bell nailed her triple flip-triple toe loop combination and had a perfect triple lutz, making everything look easy -- particularly for the first major competition of the season, even if Skate America is limited to Americans and foreigners training in this country.
"I kind of had to revert to what it feels like to practice at home,'' she said, "and have to emphasize that and to put a little pressure on myself. I heard some [taped] clapping, and the stands are empty.''
Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, has changed coaches and now works with the renowned Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs.
"We've tried to keep a lot of the things pretty much the same,'' she said, "because I know it works for me.''
Audrey Shin was third heading into Saturday's free skate. Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. champ, was fourth.