Isabeau Levito wins U.S. women’s figure skating title
SAN JOSE — All week Isabeau Levito had reminded herself to keep emotions suppressed.
Don’t get distracted, she told herself, by “the little things.”
It wasn’t until the end of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships women’s competition that the New Jersey 15-year-old finally let her emotions go.
“I was just so glad I finally did it,” she said “and I did it at this competition.”
It was a performance that exuded confidence and a poise that belied her age in capturing the women’s title with a decisive victory at the SAP Center
Levito, the World junior champion, began the night with just a two-hundredths of a point lead over two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell.
But after Tennell stumbled in an early jump combination in the free skate, Levito nailed an opening triple Lutz, triple loop jump combination and never looked back.
Her score of 223.33 put her more than 10 points ahead of Tennell (213.12).
Texan Amber Glenn was third at 207.44.
Starr Andrews had also been expected to challenge for the title. The 21-year-old Los Angeles native became the first African American skater to earn an International Skating Union Grand Prix medal, picking up a silver at Skate Canada earlier this season.
But Andrews popped out of a triple flip early in her program and then ended it by knocking on the side of her head with her knuckles, recognizing the missed opportunity. She finished fourth at 188.24.
The leader for much of the night was Irvine’s Josephine Lee, who doesn’t turn 15 until next Thursday.
Lee was 11th after a disastrous short program Thursday night. Her short program music is titled “Letting Go” and that’s just what Lee did Friday.
Her free skate score of 132.08 gave her an overall score of 187.68, which held the lead until the final four of 18 skaters and placed her fifth in the final standings.
Only Levito, Tennell, an Olympian, and Glenn had higher free skate scores.
“It’s such a surreal feeling like after the short,” Lee said. “I was just like I have nothing to lose and I just went out there and tried to give it my all. I put (Thursday) aside. I tried not to dwell on it for too long and today I just tried to let go of everything.”
Levito was named after the Michelle Pfieffer character in “Ladyhawke,” a 1985 medieval fantasy film and her family history provides a potential Hollywood-esque storyline.
Her mother, Chiara Garberi, is from the Milan area, the same region that will host the 2026 Olympic Games.
Levito and Tennell took distinctly different paths to San Jose. Tennell, 24, missed 19 months with a foot injury that kept her out of last year’s U.S. Championships.
“Obviously, I’m a little disappointed in my errors,” Tennell said “but when I think about how my season has gone and the road to competing again I’m very proud.”
Levito, meanwhile, won the World junior title last April, becoming the first American to win the event since Rachael Flatt in 2008. Her victory came in a competition without Russian athletes, who were prohibited from competing by the ISU after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Levito finished second in Grand Prix Final in Turin, the first Grand Prix final medal by an American woman since 2014.