The United States Olympic team already made a bit of history in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics with a gold medal-winning run by 17-year-old snowboarder Red Gerard, who became the first U.S. Olympic athlete born after 2000 to earn a medal.
Now another U.S. Olympic athlete has made history by becoming the first American woman ever to successfully land the incredibly difficult triple Axel jump during a figure skating routine, according to Rare.
That athlete is U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu, and she wasted no time before pulling off the notoriously difficult move, named after legendary Norwegian skater Axel Paulson, as the first trick in her routine.
You can watch that incredible part of her performance right here. The excitement of the announcers and the crowd is almost tangible.
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) February 12, 2018
According to Reuters, Nagasu was taking part in the free skate portion of the figure skating team competition, and aside from the triple Axel, she also successfully landed eight other variations of triple jumps throughout the routine that helped the U.S. team earn a bronze medal in the event.
“I feel really great. Going into it, I was like a train, get on those tracks and get some speed,” explained the 24-year-old skater after her performance. “To nail it the way I did — and even out of the corner of my eye, I could see my team mates standing in excitement.”
Nailing that triple Axel jump made Nagasu the third woman ever to land the jump, the other two women being Japanese skaters Mao Asada and Midori Ito, a fact which seemed ironically humorous to Nagasu, the daughter of two Japanese immigrants to America.
“Maybe it’s the Japanese genetics — but lucky for me I‘m American, so I’ll be the first U.S. lady,” she stated with a laugh.
Nagasu’s parents run a sushi restaurant in California — which her father almost never closes — and were not there in person to witness their daughter make history, though they are expected to travel to Korea for the final week of the Olympics to support her.
Nagasu began figure skating at age 5 and drew inspiration from two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan, the American daughter of Chinese immigrants.
Though her father rarely ever saw her skate due to always being at his restaurant, her mother was incredibly supportive and even helped create her skating costumes by hand, as the family didn’t have the income from the restaurant to buy the expensive costumes.
Aside from now being historic, Nagasu’s story is also one of persistence and determination. She was passed over by the Olympic team prior to the start of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, a heartbreaking rejection that pushed her to become better.
“I was very upset for a very long time,” Nagasu told reporters. “But I changed myself and became a better skater. I honestly don’t think that I would have worked as hard on the triple Axel if I didn’t have that time to really contemplate.”
Mirai Nagasu’s historic figure skating performance, not to mention her determined grit to overcome adversity and succeed on the international stage, is what America is all about and one of the premier reasons why we watch the Olympics every four years, so we can see our American athletes shine.
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