In a sport dominated by teenagers, Mariah Bell is the U.S. champion at the seasoned age of 25.
Bell took home first place at the national competition on Friday after excelling in the short program and doing just enough in her free skate to put her on top of the podium. She is the oldest national champion since Beatrix Loughran in 1927.
The win all but assures Bell a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which would make her the oldest Olympian in her event since Loughran and Thersa Weld-Blanchard in 1928, according to NBC.
“I just love absolutely skating,” Bell said, amid tears, when told the historical significance of her win. “I’ve been through a lot with it, but I’ve had so much support and my family’s incredible. They’ve encouraged me to keep chasing my dreams and I’m so glad that I did.”
Finishing second was Karen Chen, part of the 2018 Olympic team, while 14-year-old Isabeau Levito took bronze. Levito is too young to qualify for the Olympic team, but her finish certainly signals good things to come.
Bell, a previous silver and bronze medalist, was a contender to make the Olympic team back in 2018, but finished a disappointing fifth place at nationals. That typically represents the end of an Olympic dream for most skaters, but Bell stuck it out and retooled her coaching staff.
One of those changes was the addition of 2018 Olympian Adam Rippon, who was right there with his skater when she clinched gold.