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Victory Lap

Victory Lap
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Summer 2022
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Olympic figure skater Mariah Bell uses her platform to help end Alzheimer's

Mariah Bell is having the time of her life. In January, she won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after nearly a decade of attempts. Her spectacular performance clinched her a spot on the 2022 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team.

Although she didn't take home a medal from Beijing, Bell says it was one of the proudest moments of her life to finish her long program and receive a standing ovation from her coaches and teammates as they waved American flags.

At age 26, Bell is smashing records as one of the oldest women to successfully compete in figure skating at the international level. But she isn't hanging up her skates anytime soon — and she's not slowing down in her efforts to end Alzheimer's. Bell has made it her mission to spread awareness of the devastating disease that took her grandmother's life six years ago.

A model of strength

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bell started skating at age 3, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Morgan, a former competitive figure skater who now performs with "Disney on Ice." Both girls fell in love with the sport, going on to compete nationally. At age 12, Bell's family moved to the Denver area, where Bell's grandmother also lived.

"We would see her all the time, almost every weekend," Bell says. "She was just really fun and cute. She had lots of Minnie Mouse stuff and loved Betty Boop — that completely encapsulated her personality."

Athletes helping to make a difference

We're proud to highlight athletes and those in the world of sports who are helping to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s through fundraising, advocacy and awareness.

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Bell says her grandmother's career as a nurse was a perfect fit for her warmth and positivity. But she also recalls her grandmother telling stories about challenging moments at work, and that she could be tough when she needed to stand up for herself.

"She was pretty feisty, and I feel like I can be feisty when I really need to be," Bell says. "I saw a great example of that in her."

Challenge of a lifetime

That tenacity and strength of spirit undoubtedly served Bell well in the year leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics. A disappointing performance at the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships meant she fell short of the team headed to the World Championships, and she received a personal shock when her fiancé unexpectedly broke off their engagement. Just weeks prior to the Beijing games, a number of Bell's peers tested positive for COVID-19, forcing them to withdraw from Nationals and robbing them of the competition they trained so hard to reach.

"It was an interesting year for me and I had a lot of things that I really worked through," Bell says. "I'm so fortunate for the support system that I had because, for anybody, it's not an easy year when you have that ultimate goal of really wanting to be on the Olympic team."

After her breakup, Bell took a month off from skating, but decided that nothing was going to stand in the way of her goal of going to the Olympics. With the help of her coach Adam Rippon, an Olympic bronze medalist in figure skating, she turned the setbacks into motivation to focus and train harder than ever before.

She says that in many ways, the challenges she faced made going to the Olympics that much sweeter.

"Everybody has their own path, and for me, it took quite a long time to get there. It was such a surreal experience and something that I am so grateful for and so proud of," Bell says.

Looking to the future

After the Olympics, Bell kept the momentum going, scoring her personal best at the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier, France, and placing fourth overall.

Bell then joined the "Stars on Ice" tour, performing in shows across the country in April and May. Just before leaving for the tour, Bell said she'd miss her pet bunnies and her German shepherd, Nala, but she was looking forward to letting go of the stress of competition in favor of entertaining audiences.

Bell says she is excited to raise Alzheimer's awareness by posting to her blog and social media, and speaking at events like Walk to End Alzheimer's®.

Walk to raise funds and awareness

Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care, support and research.

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"I got to stand up and share a little bit about my grandma [at last year's Walk] and that was so awesome," she says. "It gives me so much hope to see the donations, the people spreading the word, the research that's being done. It just means a lot to me to do everything I can."

ALZ: A magazine of the Alzheimer's Association

ALZ magazine shares inspiration and information about the fight to end Alzheimer’s — and offers tips on how to make your brain the focus of a healthy lifestyle. Want in on the next issue? Sign up here.

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