Mirai Nagasu on Oscar Night With Adam Rippon, DWTS — and Wanting to Do Better After the Olympics
You'd likely need several sets of hands to count off everything Nagasu, an Olympic medal-winning figure skater, has been up to lately
You’d likely need several sets of hands to count off everything figure skater Mirai Nagasu has been up to lately.
From a history-making and medal-winning triple axel at the Winter Olympics last month to weathering two more disappointing showings there to attending the Academy Awards last week with longtime friend and fellow skating star Adam Rippon — it’s been a lot.
And there’s little blank space in Nagasu’s calendar going forward: This weekend she flies to Milan for the annual figure skating world championships. Afterwards, she heads to Florida to prepare for two months of touring with Stars on Ice (with Rippon, Nathan Chen and others).
Eventually, though, following all of that, there will be a break.
“I see beaches and mimosas in my future,” the 24-year-old tells PEOPLE from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she is preparing for her next competition.
Nagasu has called the world championship a shot at redemption after missing out on gold at the Games in February.
In her first skate in South Korea, she landed a resounding triple axel, becoming the first American woman to do so at the Olympics, with a season-best performance that buoyed the U.S.’s hopes of making the podium.
But she fell in her second attempt and changed her mind about a third try while mid-jump, in a surprising moment for onlookers.
Now, Nagasu is taking things one day at a time. She doesn’t think about how her performance at worlds might compare to or even top that breakthrough first Olympic skate a few weeks ago.
But, she says, “I want to peak in Italy.”
“I’m more like a live-in-the-moment kind of person, but anything is possible,” she says. “And even at the Olympics I know where I made my mistakes and people who watch me every day said, ‘Oh you can even do better than that,’ and so I know it’s possible.”
“I’m so glad that I did all the work pre-Olympics, because I know I can rely on my past training and I know I’ve done the work,” she explains.
Sure, there’s some whiplash with Winter Games being so quickly followed by another international competition. “But at the same time, we’ve already done the work and we know we can deliver. … I feel really good about where I am,” Nagasu says.
Off the ice, she has been navigating the bump in her national profile, having returned to the U.S. an Olympic medalist whose face and story appeared for weeks on NBC.
“It’s amazing to be recognized for something you’ve worked on for your whole life,” she says.
She admits a rush of joy at a red-carpet photo of her at the Oscars, wearing a Tadashi Shoji gown, popping up in an issue of PEOPLE: “For me to not be in a skating dress is a first so I was like, ‘Oh this might be it,’ and so I grabbed all of them.”
And she’s been “so happy” to see her name pop up in the back of Skating Magazine, where they talk to young fans of the sport who mention her as their favorite skater.
The Oscars, where she was accompanied by Rippon in a black suit and harness, was its own starry swirl.
“I didn’t have to compete and I was not nominated for anything and I literally got to sit there while people made me beautiful, so I was in heaven,” Nagasu says playfully. “I had a really great time, and I really enjoyed my experience — and also it was an open bar, so that was fun.”
She took care to pick out her dress for the event (“I literally tried on every single dress that was a possibility”) and brought back at least one souvenir: her Jimmy Kimmel-approved lunchbox.
During the ceremony, Nagasu says she was rooting for both Disney’s “tear-worthy” animated film Coco and I, Tonya. She loved Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech after winning best actress even though she hasn’t seen Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which trended too dark for her tastes.
One other highlight was a run-in with CW star Gina Rodriguez.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, hi, you don’t know who I am,’ and she was like, ‘Hi, no no, I know who you are, I’m Gina,’ and I was like, ‘ I know who you are, Jane the Virgin,’ ” Nagasu gushes. “She was so incredibly nice and I was like, ‘Please, here, here’s my medal, please put it on.’ ”
Of Rippon’s buzz-making outfit, she says she told him, “‘It’s bold,’ and he was like, ‘I am bold,’ I was like, ‘You know what Adam? You’re right, this is perfect for you.’ ” (Personally, though, she was rooting for another option Rippon considered: a gold suit.)
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But she’d happily take the opportunity, she says — “Is that even a question?” — and jokes she has the “perfect spot” at home for the Mirrorball Trophy.
Discussion of a post-skating future (Nagasu has already said this was her only Olympics) inevitably leads back to skating itself.
Maybe, she says, she’ll become an interviewer like sportscaster Andrea Joyce. Or maybe even a comedian: “Sometimes I think I’m a Kardashian and that’s why all of my dogs’ names start with Ls and then I realize I’m not,” she quips. Or maybe, like the legendary Midori Ito, she will take a break from skating and then return to the world championship after a years-long hiatus.
But that all comes later.
“I would love the opportunity to share more of my personality and less of my skating with the world,” Nagasu says, “but for now, more skating.”