It was Mirai Nagasu’s first trip to the Twin Cities to compete in the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships last week at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul; but you can bet she is going to have fond memories of Minnesota after taking first place in the Women Seniors category in a field that included the best skaters in the country.
At just age 14, Nagasu won with a compiled score of 190.41. She suffered a fall during the Free Skating competition that put her in third place for that competition. Her astounding Short Program score of 70.23 was more than 5 points above her nearest competition. The two scores compiled put her nearly 2 points above Rachael Flatt and Ashley Wagner. Caroline Zhang of Irvine, Calif. came in fourth.
The only asterisk for the competition will be that Emily Hughes, who also figured to place high, was not able to compete because of an injury.
“I was really nervous going into the program because I heard the crowd going wild for Rachel and Ashley and the other skaters,” said Nagasu, who then reflected on her philosophy of having fun and “attacking the ice.” She caught her herself to regain her composure and concentration just before stepping onto the ice.
At just 4’11”, Nagasu was fast, agile and graceful in her routine. She didn’t have her glasses on and couldn’t read the scores afterward. Her new coach at the Charlene Wong, whom she credits for her consistent success, told her that she won.
This moment eclipses Nagasu’s defining moment of wining the 2007 Junior U.S. Championships, followed by a second place finish at the World Junior Championships. She went on to take first place at the Grand Prix in Croatia, and again at the Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, to earn a spot to skate at the Junior Grand Prix in Poland. She returned with enthusiasm and confidence to compete as a senior at the U.S. Nationals.
The Montebello, California native and daughter of Japanese immigrant restaurant owners, began skating at age five when rain cancelled a family outing and they went to the public rink.
Nagasu is an avid reader and an honors student and chooses to remain in a public school. She credits her parents with keeping her disciplined to avoid distractions and focus on school and skating. She also enjoys ballet, art and piano, along with her pop music. She says the diversity in music and lifestyle fuses her passion with difficult training, to both “work hard and have fun” on the ice.
Other API skaters in the Women’s Seniors were Beatrisa “Bebe” Liang, came in 5th, Melissa Bulanhagui of Delaware came in 8th, Karen Zhou of Mission Viejo, Calif. came in 16th, and Laney Diggs of California came in 20th.
Based on qualifications and U.S. Nationals results, U.S. Figure Skating selects the skaters who will go on to represent the country in the World Championships, Four Continents Championships and World Junior Championships.
The Women’s Seniors named to competed at the World Championships will be Bebe Liang, Kimmie Meissner and Ashley Wagner. The Alternates are Katrina Hacker, Melissa Bulanhagui and Alissa Czisny.
The Women’s Seniors at the Four Continents Championships are Katrina Hacker, Bebe Liang and Ashley Wagner. The Alternates are Alexe Gilles, Melissa Bulanhagui and Alissa Czisny
Competing as Juniors at the World Junior Championships are Rachael Flatt, Mirai Nagasu and Caroline Zhang. The Alternates are Alexe Gilles, Angela Maxwell and Melissa Bulanhagui.
Evan Lysacek edged out Johnny Weir in a tie-breaker to take first in the Men’s Senior competition, with Stephen Carriere in third and Jeremy Abbott in fourth.
Vietnamese American Dennis Phan of Indio, Calif. was the lone API in the Senior Men’s competition. He came in 10th place with a 193.75. He finished 15th in the Short Program and 8th in the Free Skate. He and Caroline Zhang both skate out of All Year Figure Skating Club.
Phan began skating at age 5, when his mother took him and his brother ice skating on a hot day. She like that they wanted to get involved in such and active sport.
In the Senior Pairs competition, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin came in 2nd to Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, but their strongest memory of the event will probably be Baldwin’s marriage proposal on the ice following their performance. She said yes.
Inoue, a native of Japan, has skated in three Olympics in both women’s and pairs skating. Together with Baldwin, the two have a strong record of success and their 2nd place finish will place them in strong contention for international competitions representing the United States.
Naomi Nari Nam of Irvine, Calif. and Themistocles Leftheris came in 7th; MeeRan Trombley of New York and Laureano Ibarra came in 10th.
In the Senior Ice Dancing competition, Stacy Kim and Jonathan Harris of Texas came in 13th.
Look for tomorrows champions to emerge from the Junior and Novice skaters.
They gain experience and no matter their place in the competition, they can come back strong in coming years.
In the Junior Ladies, Ellie Kawamura of Hacienda Heights, Calif. came in 8th and Jane Ruan of Fort Lee, New Jersey came in 10th.
In the Junior Men’s, Curran Oi came in 6th, Armin Mahbanoozadeh came in 8th, and Daniel Raad came in 14th.
In the Junior Pairs, Tracy Tanovich and Michael Chau came in 2nd. Michael Chau hails from Oakdale, Minnesota, but now trains in Bradenton, Florida. Janyce Okamoto and Ryan Berning came in 8th.
In the Junior Ice Dancing, Maia and Alex Shibutani came in 4th. The brother and sister teens hail from Greenwich, Connecticut, and skate out of New York. In addition to French cinema scores in their first skate, the Shibutani’s were the only skaters to use Asian music in their second skate, with “Heartbeat”, Sakura variations and taiko drums.
Pilar Bosley, a Korean American skater and her partner, John Corona, came in 6th place.
The Juniors in Ice Dancing named to compete at the World Junior Championships will be Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell, and Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. The Alternates are Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan; Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein; and Shannon Wingle and Ryan Devereaux.
In the Novice Ladies, Felicia Zhang of New Jersey came in 3rd; Song King of West Hills, California came in 5th; Samiera Abou-Nasr of St. Paul came in 10th; and Christina Gao of Cincinnati came in 12th.
In the Novice Men’s, David Wang of Hurst, Texas, came in 3rd.
In the Novice Pairs, Christina Guterres and Steven Hsu came in 6th; and Cali Fujimoto and Nicholas Barsi-Rhyne came in 12th.
In the Novice Ice Dancing, Elyse Matsumoto and Patrick Mays took 7th; Grace Lee Sells and Robert Cuthbertson took 10th; and Hayley SooHoo and Brett Ryan took 11th.