Mirai Nagasu skates into Olympic history with her triple axel

Why Nagasu’s triple axel is such a big deal?

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Nagasu landing her triple axel

Sahithi Jammulamadaka, Editor-in-Chief

 

Mirai Nagasu made her triple axel look easy, After landing one of the most challenging jumps in figure skating, she was the first American female to land the move at the Olympics. Nagasu became the third woman to successfully complete the triple axel at the Olympics, the other two being Japanese figure skaters Midori Ito and Mao Asada. The triple axel is considered difficult because a skater has to complete three and a half rotations in the air before landing on the opposite leg from that they pushed off from. Nagasu became the third American woman to complete the move in competition as, after Tonya Harding in 1991 successfully completed two in the same performance and Kimmie Meissner in 2005.

Nagasu finished with a score of 137.53, the second best in the Ladies Free Skate and helped Team USA win bronze for the team figure skating event. This is Nagasu’s second olympics, after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where she surprisingly finished fourth. In 2014 Mirai missed her chance to compete in the Olympics after what was a controversial decision. Nagasu had finished third place at the US Figure Skating Championships, but was passed on to fourth place Ashley Wagner, who was said to have a stronger international resume. Nagasu was a full eight points ahead of Wagner but, Nagasu was seen as unpredictable and although she gave an amazing performance, she was overlooked as Wagner was a safer bet to get a medal. Wagner was unable to get a medal at Sochi and was looking forward to making the US team this year at Pyeongchang. She finished fourth at this year’s national championships and was denied a spot on the Olympic team. Nagasu finished strongly in second place and was guaranteed a spot on the olympic team. She made a valiant effort and it payed off as she skated a wonderful program.

The triple axel is a rarity in women’s figure skating, specifically because its extra half rotation makes the jump more difficult. While it’s much more common for male skaters to perform triple axels, that extra half rotation is also the reason no one has ever landed a quadruple axel in competition. For Nagasu, hitting the axel and helping the US take home the bronze medal is the first step to her Olympic comeback.At the end of her performance, she threw her hands up in the air and a bright smile erupted across her face. She is set to compete in the individual skating events on February 21st and 22nd, and is looking like a real contender for another medal, especially with that triple axel up her sleeve.