She did it once but she could not do it twice
She did it once perfectly, but she could not do it twice.
Eight days after U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu made history as the first American woman to land the notoriously tricky triple axel jump in Olympic competition, she returned to the ice to try it again — but slipped on the landing and fell hands- and knees-first to the ice.
“I think I over-shot it,” she told reporters afterward. “I kind of landed it, then I kind of fell and ended taking the fall. But it was a fight. I still did my triple-triple [jump combination] and still managed to do my loop [jump] as well.”
“You win some and you lose some,” she said, “and today isn’t my day, but I delivered when it counted for the team event and I am still going to live on that.”
The axel’s timing “just wasn’t right,” she said. “It didn’t happen for me today, but it has been happening in practice.”
Skating in the women’s short program at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, Nagasu’s routine nonetheless earned her a total score of 66.93.
That put her in second place — just ahead of fellow Team USA skater Bradie Tennell, who also fell during the short program — as the women’s competition continues through Wednesday afternoon (Tuesday night into Wednesday morning stateside).
Nagasu, 24, will have her final Olympic competition this year in the women’s free skate, on Friday.
None of her competitors here have even attempted the triple axel, and her ability to land it even once at the Olympics puts her in select company around the world.
What’s more, only two other U.S. female figure skaters have pulled off a triple axel in competition: First was Tonya Harding in 1991, followed by Kimmie Meissner in 2005.
Her success earned raves from figure skaters past and present and fueled speculation that she could be the American woman best situated to make the podium in the individual event — breaking a 12-year dry spell.
“It’s all about the points in figure skating, and how you can outrank your opponents. And the triple is almost twice the points as a double,” she has told PEOPLE of the jump, which requires a forward takeoff, three-and-a-half spins in the air and a backward landing.
“It’s kind of like a board game, and that’s my king,” Nagasu said of the triple axel. “So I want to use it as many times as I can.”
Not long after landing the jump last week, she told PEOPLE: “It’s a lot of pressure and stress to come out here — and it was my goal and my dream to be here and to be selected to the Olympic team.
“So I knew going into it the amount of responsibility that I was given, and so as athletes we want to represent our country to the best of our ability and you know — Midori Ito, Mao Asada and now Mirai Nagasu, all of Japanese heritage.”
“But I’m very fortunate that I’m American and so I’ll be the first U.S. lady to have landed the triple axel. And so today is a day of accomplishment for me,” she continued. “However, my Olympic experience is not over and I’m excited to go home and recover for a little bit and still soak in every second of this.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.