Ice Network

Nagasu averts disaster after tearing boot in short

Experts work overnight to repair skate; '08 champ to compete Saturday
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Mirai Nagasu battled through a damaged boot in her short program and will compete in the free skate after an intense repair session on her skate. -Jay Adeff

Tom Zakrajsek didn't get much sleep Thursday night. Neither did the folks at Jackson Ultima.

Bootgate was in full swing.

At some point during Mirai Nagasu's short program at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she felt her boot loosen, and she initially thought her laces might have come undone. What she discovered at the end of her skate was that her right boot (her landing foot) tore near the cuff. From the moment she stepped off the ice, boot experts were on the case to repair it.

Initially, Zakrajsek thought the skates that Nagasu was wearing were her primary skates and that she had packed a backup pair. As it turns out, the skates she was wearing were, indeed, her back ups.

Nagasu wears customized boots, and her right foot is a size 6.75 (her left foot is a 6.5). She also has a special heel in her right boot. The Jackson Ultima boot experts spent the night not only repairing the skate but also making plans to have a new boot shipped to Saint Paul. All the while, a new blade was sharpened as well.

Nagasu, who won the title the last time the U.S. championships were held in Saint Paul, in 2008, did manage to practice in the repaired boot Friday morning. She skated for about a 30 minutes.

"There were major repairs to the boot all night long," Zakrajsek said. "I went to bed at 12:49 a.m., and I was getting texts all night long about the boot, so I know they were working all night. At practice, the boot seemed better than we thought it would be, but they were going to make more repairs to address some other issues before the afternoon practice. It really has been a team effort. Other bootmakers have been helping. It's all about 'Team Mirai' right now.

"She pretty much got through everything in practice," Zakrajsek said. "It was better than we thought. Believe me, I have never prayed so much."

The plan as of now is for Nagasu to wear her repaired boot, and plan B is for her to use the new boot.

One thing Zakrajsek said is certain: She will compete in the free skate.

"She is definitely going to compete," he said. "She is not going to withdraw."

Zakrajsek said he has already connected with event referee Peggy Graham about having Nagasu get extra practice ice. U.S. Figure Skating rules permit skaters to practice at area rinks in addition to their official practice time.

He's also working on keeping Nagasu's spirits up. He reminded her about Michelle Kwan's boot coming apart during the warmup at the 2001 World Championships in Vancouver. Kwan had the boot fixed and went on to win the world title.

"I've been giving her some inspiration," he said. "Mirai just needs to trust her training."

Amazingly, Nagasu made it through her short program. According to U.S. Figure Skating rules, if Nagasu had stopped her program because of a broken boot, she would have been given three minutes to have it repaired. Considering that experts worked on the skate through the night, it's unlikely she would have been able to finish her short program.

The rulebook states: "If a competitor is unable to complete the program, no marks are to be awarded, and the competitor will be considered as withdraw," according to the rulebook.

By plowing through the program, Nagasu stayed alive for the free skate. 

"Looking back on everything, I am totally amazed by her," Zakrajsek said. "It could have been a disaster."