As she skated for the first time in an individual competition at the Olympics on Tuesday night, Mirai Nagasu fell in her 2018 short program routine while attempting the triple axel — a jump for which she made history eight days earlier when she landed it during the team competition. After Nagasu fell, many on social media were devastated for the skater, but also commended her for continuing to deliver a strong skate in spite of her fall.
Nagasu became the first-ever American to land the triple axel at an Olympic games when she successfully did so during the team competition, in which the United States won bronze. Nagasu had hoped to replicate this success on Tuesday but, unfortunately, she over-rotated her jump during the short program. According to USA Today, the over-rotation caused Nagasu to trip over herself as she landed. It resulted in her falling.
As reported by USA Today, during an interview with NBC's Andrea Joyce after her performance, Nagasu expressed frustration at her fall but was also satisfied that she was able to land other challenging jumps after the error. As she put it:
I think I overshot it, and kind of landed it, but then I kind of fell. Then I ended up taking the fall, so that would be an L for today ... But it was a fight, and I did my triple triple, and managed to do the loop as well.
Nagasu ended up with a 66.93 on her short program, putting her in eighth place after the event. She, along with other qualifiers, will compete in the women's free skate on Thursday evening.
On social media, many users expressed sadness for Nagasu, but also offered words of encouragement — and reminded her that she had made history just days before. As one user tweeted, "You are not a big L. Just competing in the Olympics makes you a winner. And you are only the 3rd woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics! @mirai_nagasu." Another user commented on Nagasu's courage in pushing through her routine, even after a challenging warm-up, saying "It took tremendous courage for @mirai_nagasu to attempt that triple axel after a difficult warm-up.
Nagasu was not the only American competitor to struggle during the short program on Tuesday night. Time reported that 20-year-old Bradie Tennell, the reigning U.S. champion, fell during her opening triple-triple jump. 18-year-old Karen Chen also stumbled (but did not fall) during her triple lutz and did not complete a planned triple toe loop. According to Time, both Tennell and Chen (in addition to Nagasu) finished their programs strong, despite early setbacks.
In addition to having the support of many fans on social media, Nagasu's parents, Kiyoto and Ikuko, also traveled to PyeongChang to support their daughter. As the Associated Press (AP) reported, the skater's parents made the rare decision to close their sushi restaurant in California to come watch her compete in the individual competition (Nagasu noted that her father typically does not like to close the restaurant because he worries about his employees not being paid during closures). Nagasu spoke about the significance of her parents coming to watch her with the AP, saying:
My dad usually never has time for my skating ... Which is OK, because they have to make a living somehow, and the sushi restaurant is how they make their business ... He’s always saying that 'I don’t have time for you. I have to feed the people' ... A lot of things go on hold for the Olympics ... so I’m glad my parents will be able to experience this with me.
It is clear that Nagasu has a strong network of supporters, including her family and many fans. While her short program fall may have been disappointing, she can certainly enter into the free skate knowing that she still gave a strong performance — and that many people are rooting her on as she continues her Olympic journey.