Mirai Nagasu had her breakout moment in 2008, when she won her first U.S. Championship title at 14 years old. Although her figure skating career has had some twists and turns, she has remained an elite skater and is determined to represent Team USA in the 2018 Olympics.
Here’s more about Nagasu and her career:
1. Nagasu Became the Youngest Woman Since 1997 to Win the U.S. Senior Ladies Title
In 2008, Nagasu became the youngest woman since Tara Lipinski in 1997 to win the U.S. senior ladies title and the second youngest in history. She held off Rachael Flatt and Ashley Wagner to win gold at just 14 years old.
She is the first lady since Joan Tozzer in 1937 and 1938 to win the junior and senior national titles in consecutive years.
At 16 years old, Nagasu represented the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics and placed fourth in the ladies’ event.
2. Nagasu Began Skating at Five Years Old
Nagasu began skating at age five. It all began on a rainy day when she could not go outside to play golf so her parents took her to the ice rink. Soon after, Nagasu asked them to sign her up for lessons.
She grew up admiring Michelle Kwan. Nagasu has also shared that Mao Asada has also been an inspiration.
“I’ve always admired Michelle Kwan and I’ve always admired Mao as well,” she told Absolute Skating. “She is the perfect definition of an athlete, because she is showing right now that she is in a bit of a slump, but she is working hard to get out of it. But athletes have their ups and downs, and she’ll definitely be back, because she is just a great athlete.”
Ih the early stages of her career, Nagasu was coached by Sandy Gollihugh. She changed her coach to Charlene Wong in October 2006.
During this period, Wong was her primary coach. Nagasu’s secondary coaches included Sashi Kuchiki, Sondra Holmes, Bob Paul, and Jim Yorke, with whom she worked on a once a week basis.
Nagasu made a coaching change in May 2009 when Frank Carroll became her primary coach. In April 2012, Nagasu ended her partnership with Carroll because of the travel distance to the training location. She was then coached by Wendy Olson and Amy Evidente at the Pickwick Ice rink in Burbank, California.
In March 2014, Nagasu moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado to train after feeling the need for a “change in scenery” and a month later, began working with Tom Zakrajsek as her main coach.
3. She Became the Second U.S. Woman to Land a Triple Axel in International Competition
Nagasu’s free skate performance at the 2017 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic included a successful triple axel. She landed the three-and-a-half revolution jump in both her programs in Salt Lake City, making her just the second American woman to land the jump in international competition. Tonya Harding was the first in 1991. Kimmie Meissner also landed the jump at the U.S. championships.
4. Her Parents Are Immigrants From Japan
Nagasu was born in Montebello, Los Angeles County, California and raised in Arcadia, California. Her parents own Restaurant Kiyosuzu, a Japanese sushi restaurant in Arcadia. Her mother told the Pasadena Star News she worked long hours to help pay for Nagasu’s skating lessons.
Nagasu, whose parents are both immigrants from Japan, speaks a mixture of Japanese and English at home with her parents
Nagasu had dual citizenship of the United States and Japan, but had to choose one before her 22nd birthday because Japan does not allow dual citizenship after that date. Nagasu, who has only competed for the United States, chose U.S. citizenship.
In the fall of 2007, she began at Arcadia High School, but switched to an online high school in 2009. After graduating, she enrolled at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and has taken courses in the business field.
5. She Was Not Named to the Olympic Team for Sochi
Nagasu earned a bronze medal at the 2014 U.S. Championships, however she was not named to the Olympic team for Sochi. This came as a surprise to Nagasu along with others who believed Nagasu should be selected instead of teammate Ashley Wagner (who finished fourth). The U.S. sent that year’s champion Gracie Gold, silver medalist Polina Edmunds, and Wagner.
U.S. Figure Skating differs from the national governing bodies of many other sports, factoring in its athletes’ entire performance over the previous year rather relying on than a single qualifying event.
Although Nagasu was severely disappointed with the outcome, she did not appeal the decision.
“Though I may not agree with it, I have to respect the decision the federation made,” she released in a statement following the announcement. “And I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me and look forward to what comes next in my skating career.”