Mirai Nagasu made a name for herself in Spokane, winning the Junior Ladies gold medal at the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
She was amazed by that experience and is excited to be back.
“Last year was a really hard season for me because I was injured,” she said. “I wasn’t as strong mentally so my confidence was really low. This year I want to show I’m back on the right track and I have the ability to become one of the top skaters in the world.
“If I skate my best and the way I’ve been skating in practice, I’ll be really proud of myself. I was fifth last year, I definitely won’t be satisfied until I’m the champion again. Whatever place I get I’ll use that to motivate myself for next year.”
What Nagasu totally glossed over is that she has already been the champion – again.
A year after Spokane she won the Senior Championship.
But that is such old news for Nagasu, who is now 16.
Which might also explain why she’s not awed that 2006 champion and Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen is starting a comeback with Thursday’s short program.
“To tell the truth, I don’t really care,” Nagasu said. “Regardless of who comes back, I just want to put out my best. Skating is all about me. Regardless of who competes against me, I’m my own worst enemy. I hope she skates her best and I hope I can beat her even if she skates her best.
“She doesn’t have the (recent) competition experience that the rest of us have. Competing at nationals as your first event, she doesn’t have that edge. She’s also been injured. I think I have a good chance against her.”
Besides, she’s well aware that her toughest competitor is within.
“The strongest part of me as a competitor is my ability to connect with the crowd,” she said. “In the past I was able to get the crowd on its feet. I’ve always enjoyed getting standing ovations.
“My weakest point is sometimes I let my nerves get the best of me and I let doubt creep in. I have to fuel my nerves in the right direction so they’re good energy.”
Nagasu obviously channeled her emotions well on her first visit to Spokane.
“It was my first year of nationals, I just wanted to get the experience,” she said. “To win was amazing. I didn’t know how many people would come to the stadium but I didn’t think it would be so full. The crowd just cheered me on. It was a lot of fun.
“I just wanted to do my best. I remember telling my coach I wished they gave medals out for the short program because I thought I would drop back down in the long.”
No pain, no gain
Two days after Taylor Toth received five stitches in his head from a practice mishap, he and Felicia Zhang captured the Junior Pairs title.
Another competitor ran into Toth just as he was about to lift Zhang, knocking him to the ice during practice before Saturday’s short program.
There were no ill-effects, though Toth, 21, admitted to basically spending two days in bed. The leaders after the short program, Zhang, 16, and Toth scored 96.64 points in the long program, six points better than their closest competition, Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller.
“We just took one element at a time, made sure we didn’t rush anything,” said Zhang, who is a member of the Skate Club of New York.
Their total score was 154.80, Simpson and Miller were at 147.29.
“I think it’s important as juniors to show the potential of being good seniors,” said Toth, who skates for the University of Delaware FSC. “I think it was a good performance.”
Zhang will compete in the Junior Ladies competition beginning Friday.
Nathan Chen started out with the idea of playing hockey like his brothers. Emmanuel Savary likes to play football and soccer.
However, don’t expect to hear their names associated with any of those sports, even though they have plenty of time to make names for themselves at any one of them.
However they already starting making names for themselves by finishing 1-2 in Novice Men’s skating, bringing smiles to the faces of many fans before bringing them to their feet at the end of the long program.
Chen connected with an enjoyably choreoghraphed skate to Peter and the Wolf
“Everything else was pretty good but I missed a couple of jumps,” Chen, 10, the youngest skater in Spokane.
He fell on his triple-toe, double-toe and again on his triple salcow.
The fifth grader from Salt Lake City, started skating early.
“When I was real young, like 2, 3, my brothers all played hockey so I wanted to play hockey,” he said, but after getting skating lessons stuck with figure skating. “In hockey you just skate and try to like play with the puck. In skating you learn a lot more jumps and cool tricks.”
Savary, who is a seventh grader in Newark, Del., after skipping sixth grade, skated to the theme from the Simpsons and had one fall.
Ashley Cain had a busy day, even for a 14-year-old with plenty of energy.
She came out of Monday’s Novice Ladies’ short program, which started at noon, in first place, just ahead of Katarina Kulgeyko.
Then, in the Novice Pairs free skate, which started at 2 p.m., she and Joshua Reagan, 20, both from Texas, blew away the competition to capture the gold medal by more than eight points.