by Bruce Rutledge,
Mirai Nagasu of Arcadia, California, became the first American woman to successfully turn a triple axle in the Olympics this past weekend in Pyeongchang, lifting her team to a bronze medal in the figure skating team event.
The triple axle is one of the hardest moves in figure skating. According to the New York Times, only eight women have landed one in competition, and only two — Midori Ito and Mao Asada of Japan — had landed one in the Olympics before Nagasu pulled it off. The triple axel was a signature move for Tonya Harding, but she never did one in the Olympics.
Nagasu’s story is all the more uplifting because she is the first American woman to return to the Olympics after being cut from the team in the previous one. She participated in 2010 at the age of 16 but was left off the team in 2014.
She used that snub as motivation and now has made history. Nagasu started skating when she was five. She recalls on her website how her parents wanted her to be a golfer. “They took me ice skating one day because we couldn’t go golfing due to the rain, and after that I kept asking to be taken to the skating rink,” she writes. “My parents always tell me that they never would have let me start if they had known how expensive and difficult figure skating is.” Nagasu’s parents own a Japanese sushi restaurant in Arcadia.
Nagasu also said she brought a Teddy bear to the Olympics because she is used to sleeping with her dog.