Miarai Nagasu’s free skate for the figure skating team event at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, was pure redemption. Not only did she skate a beautiful program with such grace admired by her fellow competitors, but in the blink of an eye she made figure skating history. In landing her triple axel, she became the first American woman to land the jump in the Olympics, and only the third woman ever to land it in the winter games.
The moment she landed that jump and proceeded to complete all the other elements in her program on Monday February 12th, was one she has been working unbelievably hard for and devoted an endless amount of time to accomplish. She helped team U.S.A win bronze in the figure skating team event and received her new personal best score of 137.53.
It has been eight years since Nagasu has skated on Olympic ice, and she could not have had a better reopening debut. She placed fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when she was just 16 years old, then missed making the 2014 Sochi team, despite coming in third at the U.S. Championships that year. This competition is typically the qualifier when it is a Winter Olympic season, however the committee who selects the U.S. team favored Ashely Wagner, who came in fourth at the championships that year, because they felt she had a more consistent season.
That was one of the lowest points in Nagasu’s skating career as she was at the prime age of 20, and just missed her second chance at getting an Olympic medal. She placed second at this year’s championship, behind Bradie Tennell, and earned her spot on the Olympic team. Thank goodness she did because without her amazing skate Monday, the U.S. would not have medaled in the team event.
In remarks to her biggest accomplishment, Nagasu said, “four years ago when I was left off the team, I wanted to make another Olympic team, and I knew I would really have to be something special. So to become the first to land a triple axel at the Olympic Games is historical, and no one can take that away from me,” according to Reuter’s full coverage of the winter games.
To say the least, landing that triple axel in competition at the age of 24, allowed Nagasu to redeem herself for missing the 2014 team and prove to the skating world and the committee that favored Wagner over herself, that she is a now force to be reckoned with.
There’s a reason why the history of this jump, performed by women in competition, is so short and it’s because it is technically the most difficult jump. While the rest of the skaters’ programs consist of several triple jumps ranging from salchows to loops, and combination jumps as well, the axel is most commonly performed as a double. The triple axel is the only jump where the skater enters from a forward position and rotates three and a half rotations. All other triples consist of just three rotations, and are entered from a backward position, or from off the skater’s toe-pick.
The other two Americans to land the jump in competition are Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner. Nagasu has now added herself to the elite list of those who made this accomplishment in the Olympics, alongside Japan skaters Midori Ito from the 1992 winter games, and Mao Asada from 2010.
The road to greatness continues for Mirai Nagasu, who still has her individual short and free programs to skate in PyeongChang.