Mirai Nagasu produced a season-best score in the free skate to jump from fifth place after the short program to the bronze medal Saturday at the Four Continents Championships, held as the Olympic test event for the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea.
A 2010 Olympian who finished fourth at age 16 in Vancouver, Nagasu was fifth after Friday’s short program, her 62.91 score 3.96 points away from the podium and 5.34 behind the leader, Gabrielle Daleman of Canada.
“That loop jump – the same mistake at nationals,” she told U.S. Figure Skating afterward. “That was really disappointing. But compared to a few seasons ago, I wasn’t even doing triple-triples. To come here and accomplish that was a challenge that I overcame in itself. I don’t see my short as a bad performance, I think it was just a learning experience. I learned from it and put it into my long. Of course going into those loops I was a little hesitant, but I put it out there.”
Nagasu responded to the challenge Saturday, strengthening her campaign for a second Olympic team by digging deep to record her best score in the free skate, a 132.04 that was the second-highest score of the evening. Her total of 194.95 was more than 10 points ahead of fourth-place finisher Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada. Japan’s Mai Mihara won the event in her first year as a senior with 200.85 points, while Daleman, the 2015 Canadian national champion, took silver with a 196.91.
“To have all those months of training come to fruition is why I work hard and why I keep coming back,” Mirai said. “When these moments happen, it’s so exciting and so gratifying. It just validates my reason for training hard every day, doing programs even when I don’t feel like it and getting up when I fall. It’s just like the U.S. Figure Skating campaign. We get up. That’s why I keep skating and that’s why today has been an amazing feeling.”
The bronze is Nagasu’s third medal at Four Continents, adding to her bronze from 2011 and a silver won last year. She is now tied for the most medals won by a U.S. woman at the event. Angela Nikodinov won three from 1999-2001.
Earlier this season, Nagasu took gold at the Autumn Classic in Pierrefonds, Quebec, and bronze at the Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy, also placing fifth at the NHK Trophy and ninth at Skate Canada. She was fourth last month at the 2017 national championships in Kansas City, Missouri, missing out on the world team but earning a spot at Four Continents after Ashley Wagner withdrew to focus on training for worlds.
Mariah Bell finished sixth for Team USA with a 177.10, while 2017 national champion Karen Chen was 12th, scoring 166.82.