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Mariah Bell Is Excited To Move On

by Lynn Rutherford

Mariah Bell competes during the women's free skate at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 25, 2022 in Montpellier, France.

 

After seven seasons competing on the ISU Grand Prix, with four podium finishes along the way, does Mariah Bell feel a faint twinge of regret as the season, starting with Skate America last week, kicks off without her this week?
“No, not at all,” the 26-year-old said with a laugh. “No regrets. I didn’t know how I would feel, honestly, but I’m happy about where I am right now.”
The reigning U.S. champion, who won Skate America in 2020, now resides in North Richland Hills, just outside of Fort Worth, Texas — about 1,800 miles from Norwood, Massachusetts, where Skate America took place this year. Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, won silver in her Grand Prix debut. Many count her as Team USA’s top hope in women’s competitions this season.
And that is fine by Bell, who announced her competitive retirement with an Instagram post on Oct. 12. 

 

 



Between furnishing her new condo, planning a return to school, and lending a hand at nearby NYTEX Sports Centre, where older sister Morgan Bell is figure skating director, her days are full.


“It will be fun to watch,” she said. “Before, I was just so focused on myself and training every day, I wasn’t always up to date on what was happening …. As much as skating holds a special place in my heart, I’m excited to move on from it.” 


Not that Bell is making a clean break — since placing 10th at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, then winding up her competitive career with a fourth-place finish at the world championships — the effervescent performer is in high demand for shows, and has toured in the U.S. and Japan. Earlier this month, she traveled to Tokyo to take part in the Japan Open as a member of Team North America, which went down to defeat to Team Japan. 


“Each team needs (at least) one member that isn’t an eligible competitor, and I was one of them for North America,” she said. “I definitely did not train as hard as I would normally train. I only planned to do three triples, so it was a much easier program. I just really wanted to have fun, and obviously still do well. It felt much more like I was going to do an exciting show, versus a competition.”


After eight senior international campaigns, with their fair share of highs and lows, Bell is ready to turn the page. 


“The journey was hard and I didn’t always like it, but I did always love it,” she wrote in her retirement post.


Bell’s toughest moments came in 2021. Favored to win the U.S. Championships, a disappointing free skate left her in fifth place and off the U.S. world team. Heartache visited her personal life when a long-term relationship ended.


“I had to work through self-doubt,” Bell said. “Not being on the world team the year before (the Olympics) was a huge blow to the gut. I remember doing the long program at nationals in Las Vegas in 2021 and being scared to be on the ice. I thought, ‘How am I going to have the success I need to have, to be on the Olympic team?’ It was a lot of working through my own stuff, personal things I didn’t see coming. But it made me really tough.”

Mariah Bell competes during the women's free skate at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 17, 2022 in Beijing.

 

The Tulsa, Oklahoma native, who lived in Irvine, California for several years while training alongside Nathan Chen at Great Park Ice, recently relocated to Texas, partly to be near her family, including sister Morgan and parents Kendra and Andy Bell.
“Transitioning out of sports is exciting and also overwhelming, especially when it’s been what you’ve done your whole life,” Bell said. “I figured while I’m doing that, I might as well be near my family.”
While she does not aspire to a full-time coaching career, she enjoys helping Morgan, a former U.S. national competitor and headliner with Disney on Ice, with her students. She has also traveled to Denver and Scottsdale, Arizona to work as a consultant.
“I was coaching eight hours a day when I was in Scottsdale this month,” Bell said. “The last day I did a little seminar. It’s really exciting for me, because seminars weren’t something I was able to do when I was training; they are time-consuming. It was fun for me to meet other skaters and share the knowledge I feel like I have, from skating so many years.”
Acquiring new knowledge is top on Bell’s agenda; she plans to return to school in January to earn her B.A.
“I’m not really sure what to expect,” she said. “I was really focused on skating, and I need something else to be working towards. I don’t know exactly what I want to study, but I think law. That is something that would be the perfect challenge and a great career. Ask me in four years.”
Bell will begin her studies at University of Northern Texas, about 30 minutes from her home.
“Obviously, school is expensive, so I want to make sure I have a solid, concrete idea of what I want to study,” she said. “After two years, I can go on to TCU (Texas Christian University) or SMU (Southern Methodist University) in Dallas, before hopefully going to law school, if that’s what I want to do.”
Whatever the path she chooses, Bell’s long competitive career is the perfect preparation for what’s to come.
“It took me a long time to become a national champion, and it took me a long time to get to the Olympics,” she said. “I was trying earlier, but it didn’t happen, and I always kept trying and persevering.”
“In Beijing, people loved to talk about my age. I never thought my age mattered at all. I wish others would feel that, too. I hope others can look at my career as an example of someone that didn’t give up, that kept trying. It doesn’t have to happen when you’re 16, 18, or 22 or 24. It can happen when you are 26.”


Lynn Rutherford is a sportswriter based out of New York. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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