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Stress fracture ices Nagasu's summer training plans

"Lots of run-throughs" in skater's future, though

Mirai Nagasu has been sidelined with a stress fracture most of the summer.
Mirai Nagasu has been sidelined with a stress fracture most of the summer. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/27/2010) - Mirai Nagasu rocked her photo shoot yesterday, even with a protective support boot covering her right foot and shin.

"Sorry, I can't wear heels," the 17-year-old told the photographer as she popped off the boot and slipped on flop sandals. "I've got this stress fracture."

Flip flops, bare feet, whatever. Within a few seconds, Nagasu had worked her own brand of charm on the photographer, U.S. Figure Skating employees and everyone else in sight.

"Scottie, be my mirror," she said. "You pose first, and I'll follow. Can I do one gangster pose?"

"OK, don't worry," Scottie Bibb, the U.S. Figure Skating director of media and public relations, said. "I'll tell you if you look like a dork."

The 2010 U.S. silver medalist and Olympian has been off the ice the past six weeks, ever since an MRI showed a right ankle stress fracture back in July. While that has wreaked havoc with her summer training plans, there is a silver lining.

"I've been going to the beach a lot, just to relax and stuff; can't you see my tan?" Nagasu said. "You don't have to move around a lot on the beach. It's been nice but kind of frustrating at the same time. I want to work hard."

The injury opened up other avenues for summer fun: a gourmet cookout at the beach with a bunch of friends from Arcadia High School, complete with a bonfire and s'mores; a trip to Disney California Adventure Park's "World of Color."

Plus, as far as Nagasu is concerned, hauling a stress fracture and support boot to Champs Camp could be a good omen.

"Evan [Lysacek], he came with a stress fracture and a boot last year, and look what happened," she said of her training partner, with whom she shares a coach, Frank Carroll. "I just copy him all of the time, not even on purpose. He's definitely my role model and I look up to him.

"He was fourth at his first Olympics [in 2006], and so was I [in 2010]. So hopefully my next one will be better, too."

As with many stress fractures, this one's exact onset is difficult to pin down.

"[The ankle] was bothering me at worlds; at first, the [U.S. team] doctor thought it had to do with a tendon. I felt fine after a few days of rest, so I kept on skating," she said. "But it kept getting worse."

That skating included a month-long stint with Smuckers Stars on Ice, criss-crossing the country on her own for the first time. After that, it was time to buckle down and tackle new programs, and that's when the trouble started.

"It got to the point I couldn't jump any more and the MRI results showed the [stress] fracture," she said. "The pain, maybe I could get through it, but [going off ice] was more important for my future."

During her enforced time off, Nagasu was in frequent telephone contact with her coach Carroll, whom she is following to Lake Arrowhead this fall, a several-hour drive from her home town in Arcadia, Calif. where her parents run a sushi restaurant.

Carroll held a summer training camp with Nagasu and other pupils at the Toyota Sports Center, the same rink where he trained Evan Lysacek to world and Olympic gold. Now, the revered figure skating veteran has moved full time to Lake Arrowhead as he awaits completion of a new skating facility in Palm Springs.

"Wherever he wants to train, I will follow him," Nagasu vowed. "I could move up to Lake Arrowhead, I thought about that, but I think I'm more comfortable sleeping in my own bed, so I guess we'll be making the drive."

Nagasu's mom, Ikuko -- whom the skater says has recovered well from thyroid cancer surgery last fall -- will be making the treks with her.

"My mom still has to work at the restaurant, so she can't move up to Lake Arrowhead [full time]," the skater said. "I feel really bad for my mom but at the same time, it's really scary driving up there, so I'm glad she will be with me.

"It's a sacrifice, but I love skating enough to do it. It's an honor to be on this journey with Mr. Carroll."

Although it's slowed her down, the injury hasn't caused panic. Nagasu's programs -- a short to the Witches of Eastwick soundtrack and free skate to music from Memoirs of a Geisha, both done by longtime choreographer Lori Nichol -- were finished right after the Stars on Ice tour.

"They are brilliant, if I may say so myself," she said. "I do need to get down to training them." Nagasu seems especially excited about her short, which lets her show off her burgeoning acting skills.

"It's a story; he loves me, he loves me not." In the beginning, I pick a flower and pull the petals. It turns out he loves me not," she said.

"It's not based on a true story or anything. I haven't seen the movie, but I've heard about it. Jack Nicholson comes to town and he's the devil."

Nagasu and Carroll won't get the full benefit of showing the programs to U.S. Figure Skating's assembled Champs Camp panel of judges, technical specialists and others, including Stars on Ice director Jef Billings, who's here to lend expertise on the all-important "packaging." It's also forced her withdrawal from the Japan Open to be held Oct. 2.

"It's a bummer I'm missing the trip to Japan, but September 1st, I can start stroking and stuff," the skater said.

Training with Carroll, a strict disciplinarian, means there are a lot of daily program run-throughs in Nagasu's near future, and she welcomes the challenge.

"Those run-throughs, they really boast my confidence," she said. "Doing them just makes me train smarter. Starting last season, even if I fell, I kept going. I just learned how to adapt to problems and keep going no matter what."

Another year of that kind of discipline -- Nagasu began training with Carroll in 2009 -- should help improve the skater's consistency. Thrilled with her Olympic free skate, just a few weeks later Nagasu was crestfallen to place seventh at the 2010 world championships after a troublesome free. In hindsight she's put the disappointment into perspective.

"I wish I had put two good programs back-to-back. I'd like to do it over," she said. "But my real goal is Sochi, in 2014, and I have to remember that.

"I was really unstable a few years ago; I got freaked out by the smallest things. Now I feel if something hits me I just let it go and keep doing my business. That's what my coach has taught me."