The Associated Press
Canada won Olympic figure skating team gold with 73 points in PyeongChang after the three-day event that includes short and long programs in skating’s four disciplines. Russian was second with 66. But equally impressive might have been the team in third with 62, and how it got there.
Quite simply, the night belonged to Mirai Nagasu. Snubbed for a spot on the 2014 Sochi team, she became the first American woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics.
“This is definitely history or herstory, whatever way you want to put it,” Nagasu, 24, told the Associated Press. “I wanted to make my teammates proud and I wanted to make America proud.
“I knew in my heart this day would come.”
A decade ago, at age 14, Nagasu became the second youngest female win the ladies senior title at the U.S. Championships. She was sixth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver but was left off the 2014 team despite finishing third at nationals.
Two months later, Nagasu moved from Southern California, where her parents own a sushi restaurant, to Colorado Springs and coach Tom Zakrajsek. She wanted a change of scenery and she also wanted something else: She wanted Zakrajsek to teach her the triple Axel, the Holy Grail of ladies singles skating.
Only two Americans had previously landed the 3½-revolution jump cleanly in competition, and neither won an Olympic medal: the infamous Tonya Harding in 1991, and Kimmie Meissner in 2005.
Only two had ever landed one at an Olympics, both Japanese: Midori Ito in 1992 and Mao Asada in 2010.
Add Nagasu to the list.
The jump came 21 seconds into her free program, and she didn’t just hang onto the landing. She received 10.07 points for the jump, an enormous amount, and finished with a personal-best 137.53, putting her second among the ladies behind Russia’s Alina Zagitova. More importantly, she finished ahead of skaters from Italy and Japan who were expected to beat her – consolidating the U.S. hold on bronze and allowing ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani to merely ice the bronze cake in the competition’s final discipline.
“To smoke the jump and do it like she knows how, like everybody’s seen in practice and warm-ups, it was important for her to help the team out,” Zakrajsek said. “She really wanted to be part of the team event and to me she skated like that today. She skated like she was going to throw it down.”
By the end of the night on Feb. 11 into the following morning, Nagasu was the second highest trending topic in the world on Twitter.
Former Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi tweeted, “Congratulations…tears of joy for you again!” Nagasu responded, “Thank you so much.”
According to Nagasu’s website profile, her hobbies and interests besides figure skating include skateboarding, reading, art, dancing, going to garage sales, shopping and music.