For Tennell brothers, Olympic trip is pure gold


“When we were growing up, people would be, like, ‘You’re homeschooled?’” said CG senior Austin Tennell. “Well, technically, we are ‘rink-schooled.’”

For Austin and his brother Shane, a sophomore, ice rinks are a second home. So when they missed about two weeks of school in a row to watch the greatest skaters in the world, it’s safe to say all the missed homework and tests in the world wouldn’t make them regret it.

In February their older sister, 20-year-old Bradie Tennell, represented the U.S. as one of the three American figure skaters sent to PyeongChang, South Korea, for the the twenty-third Olympic Winter Games.

And as it has been for many years, two of her biggest fans, her brothers, were there to see her skate in person.

In early January, Bradie won the ladies singles category for the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California. A win such as that in an olympic year was almost a certain ticket to PyeongChang, but it was not for sure until later that night.

“The Today Show was airing the thing where they release the olympic team members’ names,” Shane said. “So the the three skaters who went, including her, were on the show that night. But it was California time, so it was like four or five a.m. there, about seven here. So, I just pulled an all-nighter to get to watch her on the Today Show.”

Austin and Shane knew how hard she had been working at this because they’d been around to see it their whole lives. It was only right to be there to see their sister on such a huge stage.

A GoFundMe started with the goal of raising the $20,000 needed to send both brothers to South Korea to see Bradie skate.

“We wanted to go, obviously. I mean, there’s nothing like it,” Austin said.

A couple of weeks before Bradie and their mother were set to leave for PyeongChang, the family was taking part in what they thought was an interview for that night’s NBC Chicago news. However, it turned into something much more.

During the interview, two representatives from United Airlines told the family they had seen the fundraising campaign and wanted to fully pay for Shane and Austin to go to PyeongChang to see all her hard work pay off. Just like that, they were going to South Korea for the 2018 Olympics.

“That was unbelievable.” said Austin. “They surprised us, and I was so happy. Again, it was really just unbelievable”

A few weeks later, the brothers and their stepdad boarded a 15-hour flight to South Korea, with a layover in San Francisco about five hours in. They had been watching Bradie on TV for the first few days of the games, and couldn’t wait to be there to see her live.

Once they landed, it was not long until they ran into the language barrier, which Shane said they discovered the hard way.

“We had just left the airport, and we were trying to find our hotel. We had these cards on us, so we got in a taxi and pointed at the line on the card the hotel address was on. Well, somewhere in there he saw some other address, and took us somewhere else. We hadn’t been there for even an hour yet and we were lost in South Korea.”

They did eventually find the hotel, and both Shane and Austin admitted that while it was scary then, they will be telling the story their whole lives.

The Tennells did a lot in their time in South Korea, including experiencing a new culture, trying new foods, walking around the Olympic village, and seeing other events. However, none was better than the ultimate reason they were there: to see their sister skate on Olympic ice.

“I’ve seen her skate before on international ice,” Shane said. “But when she is representing a skating club versus the country, it’s a whole different feeling.”

Austin and Shane said their sister will continue to train and try to be back in the Olympics for Beijing 2022. They also said they hope to be there again to see it, but this time as fellow athletes.

Their countless hours at the rink have not all been spent watching Bradie. They are both serious hockey players with the goal of making it to team USA.

“That was something that was brought up while we were over there,” Austin said. “All three of us making the next Olympics.”

“For us three to someday share that experience together, as athletes, that would be the best,” Shane said.

No matter what the future holds for the Tennell family, it is for certain that the memories from the PyeongChang games will always resonate in their minds. Two weeks straight of missed homework and tests are not easy to make up. But as Shane put it, the feeling of seeing Bradie skate on the Olympic ice was unmatched, and neither brother will ever regret it.