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Nagasu readies for her close-up

Will provide commentary for Fuji TV at 2009 Worlds

Mirai Nagasu is hoping for better results in the 2009-10 season.
Mirai Nagasu is hoping for better results in the 2009-10 season. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/09/2009) - Mirai Nagasu is gearing up for the upcoming world championships...in the classroom. Although the 2008 U.S. ladies champion did not defend her title this year in Cleveland, finishing fifth, she will be at worlds in an official capacity as part of the broadcast team for Japan's Fuji television. As of now, the assignment will involve answering questions during the men's and ladies short and long programs. Additional duties will be more clearly defined as the competition at Los Angeles' Staples Center gets going on March 22.

"I'm really excited because I get to watch worlds live," said Nagasu, who lives about 45 minutes from the Staples Center. "Even though I don't get to skate in it, it's good experience just for me to be there and be able to experience the atmosphere.

"Since I didn't make the world team, being able to watch and it live will inspire me to work harder for next year, so I can make it next year."

Plagued by a sore right ankle, Nagasu declined to compete at the world junior championships in Sofia, Bulgaria and spent the month after the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships totally off the ice. She said the ankle is now feeling better, so she's slowing starting to practice again. She tapes her ankle before practice and ices it frequently when off the ice. She's also resumed daily ballet class, which she feels enhances her strength and balance.

She's been taking a mental break from skating the past few weeks, preferring to spend time with friends. She saw the movie Taken, has gone bowling and has hit a Southern California favorite, Yogurtland. She has also participated in a club called Care for Kids, where she and classmates send handwritten cards to kids in hospitals.

"I've been having more of a normal life," she said. "Going out on weekends and having fun. I'm going to enjoy this time without skating, so when I go back to skating I'll be ready to have more of it."

Although she and her family speak Japanese at home, Nagasu has been putting in extra time at school working on her conversation skills to prepare for her upcoming TV job. "At home, it kind of comes out as a mix. When I don't know some words, I just stick an English word in," she said. "I've been taking advanced placement Japanese at school and I've been practicing."

Nagasu hasn't take any public speaking classes in school, but she does try to learn anytime she has to do a presentation in front of a class or an audience. "Each speech that I make in front of an audience I learn from it. Take pointers and put it in the back of my mind for the next speech," she said.

She is actually more relaxed speaking in front of unfamiliar faces, so the cameras of Japan's Fuji television shouldn't faze her too much. As for her commentary style, she wants to look at the competitors with a fresh eye.

"I want to commentate not necessarily from a driven skater's perspective," Nagasu noted. "Normally, I'd have to compete against these competitors. I want to go like an audience member who's trying to enjoy everyone's performance.

"I definitely want to enjoy the battle between Mao Asada and Yu-Na Kim. I think it's going to be really enjoyable. I think everyone's programs this year are really unique and cool. This year's worlds are the last place you can make an impression for international judges to head toward Olympics next year. I'm looking forward to what everyone is going to lay out on the plate."

She's confident that the two U.S. competitors, Rachael Flatt and Alissa Czisny, will put down good performances and hopefully qualify the U.S. ladies for three Olympic berths.

She won't be driving herself to her commentary gig. Although Nagasu is eligible to get her driver's license when she turns 16 on April 16 and is already eligible for a learner's permit, she hasn't yet started driver's ed. She said she's not ready for California freeways. "Right now," she said, "it would be way too much for me to handle."