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Nagasu, Flatt finish fourth, seventh respectively

American teens make Team USA proud

Mirai Nagasu is overcome upon hearing her free skate scores, and that she has earned fourth place at the Olympic Winter Games.
Mirai Nagasu is overcome upon hearing her free skate scores, and that she has earned fourth place at the Olympic Winter Games. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(02/26/2010) - Kristi Yamaguchi gave Mirai Nagasu some advice for these Olympics in Vancouver: Savor the moment.

Nagasu, 16, did that and got a little more, finishing fourth in her first trip to the Olympic Games.

"Next time,'' she said, "I hope to go for gold.''

Nagasu, who has never competed in a world championships and was making her Olympic debut at these Games, performed a season's-best score of 126.39 -- 20 points higher than her previous high set three years ago as a junior-level skater -- in the free skate to vault from sixth place after the short program to fourth. She was unable to land a triple-triple in either segment of this competition but is hoping to perform it next month at the world championships in Torino.

"After the short program I was really disappointed,'' said Nagasu, of Arcadia, Calif. "But after the long and fourth place in my first Olympics ... so I think it's pretty good. I think my best years are yet to come.''

American teammate and reigning U.S. champion Rachael Flatt, meanwhile, was also competing in her first Olympics and placed seventh. Flatt, who has been one of the steadiest competitors in the world, smiled throughout her program.

"I was just incredibly excited to give two wonderful performances,'' Flatt said. "I have given it all I have. It was a great feeling.''

Flatt was surprised, however, that the judges downgraded both of her triple flips.

"I guess we'll have to take a closer look,'' Flatt said. "As far as I can remember I have never been downgraded.''

Although these Games marked the first time since 1964 that at least one American woman figure skater had a podium finish in the Olympics, U.S. Figure Skating was pleased with the performances of both skaters.

"They were great and I am proud of the performances of our women at the Olympics,'' said U.S. Figure Skating president Pat St. Peter. "They skated perfect programs under extreme pressures and are among the top skaters in the world.''

Nagasu made great strides in the last year. A junior national champion in 2007 and the U.S. titlist in 2008, Nagasu's skating came undone in 2009. She placed fifth in nationals that year and didn't qualify on the U.S. world team. She switched coaches and began training under the watchful eye of Frank Carroll.

She trains alongside of Evan Lysacek, a workhorse whom Carroll has said he has had to rein in at practices. For Nagasu, having to perform daily with complete run throughs, was especially tasking. But the work has paid off.

"Mirai is a spirited girl,'' Carroll said earlier this week. "She is intelligent. Working with her, we had to establish who was the boss. It's a bit like the alpha dog thing. She is challenging, bright and talented. She wanted to dance to her tune and we had to agree that she would dance to my tune.''

Carroll said that at first Nagasu would stop midway through her program in practice if she missed a jump.

"I switched off the music, handed her the disc and said, 'Right. Get out of the rink,' '' Carroll said.

Nagasu didn't need to stop tonight as she seemed to breeze through every element, from the start of her program with a triple Lutz-double toe-double toe combination to the last combination spin. She performed her layback with her usual elegance. Perhaps most impressive for Nagasu was she wasn't downgraded for a single jump or called for an edge problem on any takeoffs.

After her free skate, performed to music from Carmen, Nagasu showed her emotions in the kiss and cry, pumping her fists in the air as the scores were announced.

Ever competitive, however, Nagasu is looking for even more out of her future performances.

"I was happy to be behind those top competitors,'' Nagasu said. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to keep up the USA trend of making the podium. I hope I can make it up at the next Olympics.''