American figure skater Mirai Nagasu entered the record books on February 11 in PyeongChang when she became the first U.S. woman in history to land an elusive triple axel during an Olympics. Many people remember that skater Tonya Harding previously landed a triple axel; however, Tonya never did so in an Olympic competition.
Nagasu became the third woman in history to land the triple axel in an Olympics. The other two women were Japanese skaters. She was already the third U.S. woman to land one in an international competition, although, as noted, the other two women did not land the jump in the Olympics.
Three and a half rotations put Mirai Nagasu in Olympic history. She landed the triple axel without hesitation at the beginning of her team program on February 11 on her first try. You can watch the video of the jump here:
“I’m super happy to feel my teammates’ support,” Nagasu said after she nailed the triple axel. “…That was a lot of excitement. And this is why we are here to be part of Team USA and to support each other. This is really cool…to nail that triple axel, I tripped a few times going into it because I was so nervous.” But she said “it was really special for me” that she decided to just go for it and succeeded.
As the Associated Press describes the jump’s difficulty: “The triple axel is considered one of the hardest jumps because it requires tremendous strength and the ability to rotate quickly. Skaters lead into the jump head-on, rather than backward, increasing the level of difficulty because they must do 3½ revolutions before landing.”
Nagasu had already landed the jump in an international competition. That feat came only in September 2017 even though she has been skating in competitions since 2008, when she was 14-years-old and won a U.S. championship.
Team USA quoted her as saying she didn’t pause to smile after landing the triple axel in her first competition, thinking, “OK, Mirai, not the time. Regroup. That music doesn’t stop, or else I would do a mini dance if I could.” How big of a deal is this? Only eight female skaters in the world have ever landed the jump during international competition, and only two had done so in the Olympics before Nagasu (neither of the latter are American), according to ESPN.
Of course, Harding became famous for her ability to land the triple axel. However, Harding wasn’t able to successfully perform the trick during the Olympics, where her performance was overshadowed by the knee-capping of her figure skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan. The knee-capping episode was featured in a television documentary and the Hollywood movie, I, Tonya.
According to The AP, Harding was able to land three triple axels in non-Olympic competitions before her career ended, the first in 1991 during her free skate in the nationals competition.
A second American figure skater also landed the triple axel in non-Olympic competition: Kimmie Meissner. “Kimmie Meissner landed a triple axel during her free skate in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships,” The Associated Press reported in 2005. She was only 15, however she never achieved Olympic success.
Two women – both from Japan – have also landed triple axels during past Olympics. According to The Washington Post, the women to have done so are Midori Ito and Mao Asada.
Ito’s Olympic triple axel came first, in 1992 at the Albertville Olympics.
Social media lit up when Mirai Nagasu landed the triple axel.
One fan wrote on Twitter, “MIRAI NAGASU IS A PHENOMENAL SKATER. HOLY CRAP. SHE JUST MADE HISTORY AND I AM FREAKING OUT.”