Mirai Nagasu is skating "story of hope" this season


November 6, 2012
By Ia Remmel (Pia)
Photos © Ia Remmel (Pia)

19-year old Mirai Nagasu of the USA has achieved much for her age – two years ago she placed as high as fourth at the Vancouver Olympic Games. However, last season was not her best and in the spring, news came of her coaching change. She is now training with Wendy Olson and Amy Evidente in Los Angeles. This season, Mirai got off to a fresh start at the Finlandia Trophy where she won third place behind Julia Lipnitskaya and Kiira Korpi. I had an interview with Mirai following the medal ceremony. She had just finished giving out autographs to young skaters and people from the audience.

How many autographs did you give out just now?

Oh, I do not know! These little girls are so adorable, so it is really hard to say no when they ask for my autograph, holding their little books. I really appreciate that they ask me for autographs and I feel it’s an honor that people ask me to sign them.

The Finlandia Trophy was your first international competition this season, how did you enjoy skating here?

I felt good about my long program – I did the best I could, besides a fall of course but I have lot’s of work to do. I was a bit hesitant and nervous during my short program and I did not really give the gutsy performance that I wanted to give. I am a little bit disappointed with that but it is still the beginning of the season. I learned a lot here and can now work even more on improving my level of performance.

You changed coaches earlier this year. You have already talked about it but why did you feel it was necessary?

Frank Carroll is a great coach and I loved to work with him. However, it was difficult on my end to train there [in Palm Springs]. I am 18, so I am legally an adult but I am still at the age where I am with my parents a lot. My mom needed to drive with me, and so every day I needed to drive for two hours each way, which was a very long drive for me. It took a big toll on my body and I could not really train to the best of my ability, so I decided to go back to my roots – to train back home where it is closer.

What do your new coaches do differently from Frank Carroll?

It is mostly different in the way that men and women coaches coach in different ways. Right now I have two coaches, they co-coach me. I have Wendy Olson – she used to teach with Frank Carroll. When I asked Mr. Carroll to recommend some coaches he recommended her. She has Frank’s technique. I also have Amy. I remember meeting her when she competed and I competed, so I can relate to her very well. We work really well as a team and it has been a lot of fun.

Your last season was not really the best one you have had. Why did last season not go that well for you?

I would like to blame it on the obvious distractions, but when I get down to it and dig deeply, I feel I just was not me last season and it was all wrong. I did not train the way I should have trained and took one step back from my A-game the year before.

Did you have trouble with growth spurts like every girl your age?

During the growth spurt, you just start gaining weight and growing hips etc. However, I am still going through that experience. It also helps your skating as you become more mature. It is a change everyone has to go through.

Speaking about your new programs – the short is to music of Benny Goodman and the long to Symphony No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns. Who chose the music and how did you get the ideas for your programs?

It is definitely a team effort. My choreographer is Susan Austin who has done my prorgrams since I was very young. She did my programs again this year. We listened to a lot of music and we all agreed that it should be something fun and youthful for the short program and something more elegant and mature for the long program. I am really happy with both of my programs.

What images and stories are connected with your programs?

My long program has really strong music, it is beautiful and I like how it expands towards the end. I feel like it is a story of hope where you just ride to victory and I feel that by skating to it, I can really get the audience on their feet from elation.

This Saint-Saëns Symphony music in your long program really sounds like an anthem. It also includes an organ part.

My choreographer actually insisted on the organ part because it is unusual for a skater to skate to organ music.

Who designs your dresses? Are they designed according to your own ideas?

My dressmaker offers ideas and my coach has really good taste of style also. So it is again a kind of group effort. I can also say whether I like or dislike something.

Who among past skaters do you idolize?

Of course I have to say Michelle Kwan. I can really relate to her in many ways. She is Asian-American like me and her parents own a restaurant like my parents. She is also an amazing skater, and very strong mentally. She has been an idol in my life – not just in figure skating but also outside of figure skating. Everywhere around the world, when you think figure skating you also think Michelle Kwan.

How do you feel about your Japanese roots?

I grew up in America but the rest of my family is Japanese. I visit Japan a lot and I love it. I love Japanese food, I also eat it at home every day. I do not speak the best Japanese, however, I can communicate well in terms of everyday speech. I also like Japanese television and I just like everything about Japan. It is really hard for me to choose between Japan and America; I have grown up with both of them in my heart.

Miniupdate: Mirai recently competed in Cup of China and placed fourth, behind the same girls as in the Finlandia Trophy: Julia Lipnitskaya and Kiira Korpi. Mao Asada won the competition.

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