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U.S. Skating Championships to Determine Olympic Nominees in Nashville

Bridgestone Arena to Host Competition to Determine Nominations for 2022 U.S. Olympic Team; Scott Hamilton Talks Must-See Event

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Content Manager & Beat Reporter

2022 U.S. Figure Skating

U.S. Figure Skating returns to Bridgestone Arena

25 years after U.S. Figure Skating became the first sports event at Bridgestone Arena, the Championships return ahead of the 2022 Olympics.

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The first sporting event held at Bridgestone Arena nearly 25 years ago required a sheet of ice but sticks and pucks weren't present quite yet.

Instead, the participants performed flips and axels with the grace and beauty only a world-class figure skater could possess. Now, 25 years later, the next generation of skaters are back, and this time, they're vying for the chance to represent their country on the grandest stage of them all.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships are returning to Nashville Jan. 3-9 as the calendar flips to 2022, and with the Winter Olympics less than two months away, this occurrence marks the final qualifying competition to determine which athletes will be nominated to skate for Team USA at the Games.

Champions will be crowned in ladies, men's, pairs and ice dance at the championship and junior levels of the U.S. Figure Skating competitive structure with over 750 athletes in attendance.

Needless to say, there's plenty to skate for - and no one knows that better than one of Nashville's own.

"There's not going to be an event here that isn't going to be hotly contested and really fun to watch," 1984 Olympic Gold-Medal Figure Skater Scott Hamilton said. "And then you put the Olympic identity on top of all of that and it's just - Nationals is already exciting, but you add the Olympic element to it, and it becomes peak-level excitement. I can't wait for it to start."

Hamilton, who now calls Nashville home and helps to run the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy at Ford Ice Centers in Bellevue and Antioch in conjunction with the Nashville Predators, arguably owns more passion for the sport of figure skating than anyone else. A four-time world champion himself, Hamilton now focuses on training and developing the next star skaters in Middle Tennessee and beyond.

Now, the hosting of one of the sport's most important competitions a short drive from his home is just one more nod to how far Nashville has come in so many respects - and for a figure skating fan, there's nothing better.

"You're watching people do impossible things with knives strapped to their feet on ice, which is an unpredictable surface in many respects," Hamilton said. "You've got ruts out there, you've got holes out there, you have all kinds of hazards that can really change the course of an event. Instantly, it's dramatic.

"And to have the U.S. Nationals here in Nashville, who does big events better than Nashville? No one, right? And to have that where Bridgestone is in relation to the rest of the town… Nashville has a really great opportunity to really get people by providing memories beyond the championships just by experiencing what this town has to offer, and I'm really proud of that as well."

Video: U.S. Figure Skating returns to Bridgestone Arena

Figure skating isn't the only sport he enjoys on ice either, and Hamilton carries that same sense of pride for the Preds, too. A regular at games inside Bridgestone Arena, Hamilton believes the atmosphere Predators games are known for has the ability to carry into other events beyond just those 41 home contests.

On top of that, celebrating the building's 25th anniversary adds one more element to the competition that is set to make the 2022 Championships one for the ages.

"For Nationals, that kind of bookend with the history of the building and the Predators - and to see this building becoming 25, a quarter of a century, it's still brand new, and it still offers a fresh experience for the people that step into it," Hamilton said. "I've been around, and to me, it's the most fun NHL experience you can have in the League. It's way better than anywhere else, and a lot of other buildings are trying to copy it, but no copies are as good as the original. But everything that's been created here has been really geared toward the fan and the fan experience. Figure skating just playing its part in that is really cool and just such an honor to be able to participate in that."

Fans of hockey are surely aware there's simply nothing like experiencing the sport live as well, and Hamilton knows that to be true of figure skating, too. He tells the story of a good friend, a self-proclaimed diehard sports fan of all kinds, who calls the U.S. Figure Skating Championships his favorite event to attend each year.

As Hamilton explains, there's simply an element - much like hockey - that just cannot be grasped through a television screen.

"Every moment of the performance is absorbed by the audience in a way that it's three dimensional," Hamilton said. "Television is very two dimensional. It's flat, you can't really see the speed, the cameras following kind of where they go, and as a broadcaster, I always tried to say, 'They're really cooking going into the event.' But when you're sitting here live, and you see the speed is there and they're on ice skates, it's breathtaking."

By the end of the week, some will have achieved what was once an unimaginable dream - and at least a few for the first time. As Hamilton says, what better way to celebrate a quarter century of Bridgestone Arena memories than witnessing a fellow American earn their shot at Gold?

"We have the Skating Academy here in Nashville, and all the skaters that come to us, it's like, what if one of those kids, they see something and they go, 'I want to do that,' and maybe that's the first step in their journey to competing in the Olympic Games or even bringing home a medal," Hamilton said. "These are deep-seeded, goals, dreams, aspirations that these skaters have, and for the ones that are making them for the first time, it's a game changer. And for those that are here to kind of set themselves up for a medal run at the Olympics, it takes on even greater identity. How many times can you be in the same room with somebody as they become an Olympian and as they become a national champion? It's really cool."

To learn more about the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and to purchase tickets, click here.

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