Figure skater Mirai Nagasu came to this year’s Olympics to make history. On Monday at the PyeongChang Games, Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics.
Only two other women have completed the tricky triple axel on an Olympic stage: Japan’s Midori Ito and Mao Asada.
“It’s historical and something no one can take away from me,” Nagasu said. “I wanted to make America proud.”
The 24-year-old was the first of five women to perform her free skate on the final day of competition toward the Olympics team medal. The U.S. squad won bronze.
Canada fought off a challenge from the Olympic Athletes of Russia to win the gold. The OAR settled for silver.
Under enormous pressure, Nagasu took the ice and held nothing back in the 4 1/2- minute program she had scripted to music from “Miss Saigon.”
The triple axel came first, and she delivered, completing all of the tricky rotations and landing solidly on one foot. From there, it was as if an anvil was lifted from Nagasu’s shoulders. She didn’t miss a jump or put a skate wrong. As her program wound down, she was beaming, completing her final triple loop and finishing with a layback spin of sheer beauty and release.
Nagasu shook her fists twice as her teammates gave her a standing ovation, aware of her sacrifice and courage. Judges scored her a 137.53, more than seven points higher than her season’s best.
Known for her work ethic and technically advanced skill, Nagasu won the U.S. junior title at 13, and the following year, at 14, she became the youngest U.S. champion since Tara Lipinski.
Named to the 2010 Olympic team, she finished fourth in Vancouver, the best by a female American skater, and charmed fans with her open heart and quick wit.
In 2014, Nagasu was left off the Olympic team, despite winning the bronze medal at that year’s U.S. championships. It was considered a snub by many of the sport’s enthusiasts.
This year, she won silver at the U.S. championships, cementing her spot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team.
Tonya Harding was the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition but failed in her attempt at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. A decade later, 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner became the second American woman to land the jump but, like Harding, didn’t do so at the Olympics.