Mirai Nagasu Becomes the First American Woman to Land a Triple Axel at the Olympics

It was through sheer talent and skill that the eight Americans on the country’s figure skating team captured the bronze at the figure skating team event yesterday at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Although Canada won gold and Russia silver, it was Mirai Nagasu whose star shone brightest, landing a historic triple axel, making her the first American woman to nail the rare jump in the Olympics.

The 24-year-old, who was the first among five women to set foot in the rink for the women’s free skate, leaped into the move 21 seconds into her routine, earning triumphant cheers from the crowd at the Gangneung Ice Arena as well as a standing ovation from the audience and her teammates upon her finish.

Nagasu is only skater in her division to perform the triple axel, and her performance marked the third time the feat has ever been seen on the Olympic stage. Her near-flawless routine garnered an overall score of 137.53 — the second-best of the women’s free skate, which helped propel her team to third place.

Nagasu, whose four-and-a-half-minute program was set to the music from Miss Saigon, expressed her joy in a series of tweets, particularly after the musical’s lead actress and Tony Award winner Lea Salonga praised the figure skater in a post.

A triple axel, with its forward takeoff and three and a half rotations, is notoriously difficult and risky to execute. Only three American women have ever landed the jump in competition — Tonya Harding at Skate America in 1991, Kimmie Meissner at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2005 and now Nagasu.

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