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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - March 13

Disaster in Japan hits home for Nagasu

Mirai Nagasu's family connection to Japan made the news of the Pacific tsunami all the scarier.
Mirai Nagasu's family connection to Japan made the news of the Pacific tsunami all the scarier. (Getty Images)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(03/13/2011) - Our hearts are with the people of Japan this week; it's hard to go about our blogging business as the terrible news comes in. We had an interview set up with Mirai Nagasu for the night of March 11, so the first thing we talked about was the Sendai earthquake and Pacific tsunami. Nagasu's family was still trying to reach her father's parents; they leave northeast of Tokyo. Her mother's parents live in Nagano.

Nagasu found out about the earthquake when she woke up on Friday morning.

"Last night, I got several text messages," she said. "I didn't actually read them because I was tired, but I woke up and had all these text messages about my grandparents, and I didn't know what they were talking about. Then I opened my computer up and saw the news."

Nagasu didn't see any of the effects of the tsunami in California, since she and her parents live closer to the mountains. We all wondered what will happen with the World Championships; practices are still scheduled to begin March 20. Nagasu is the first alternate for the US team.

"Since I read the stadium's ok, I'm sure it will be fine," she said. "If the airport doesn't open, worlds is in trouble. I hope everyone's ok. I read on Twitter that Fumie Suguri's grandfather passed away."

We reluctantly moved on to the subject we had originally wanted to talk to Nagasu about: the recent Four Continents Championships, at which she won the bronze medal. Had she ever visited Chinese Taipei before?

"That was my first time," she told us.

"One of the days I went to the night market with my coach and my mom. It was like a carnival. It goes on past midnight and they have carnival games, and if you go through the streets there's different food sections and they have a lot of interesting choices! I don't know what it was but it smelled so bad," she went on, giggling. "We walked through the food section so quickly, we didn't even stop to look."

We asked how Nagasu adapts to all the different food when she travels to competitions. A lot of skaters carry plenty of familiar food with them when they compete.

"I'm pretty easy, actually, because I live in California, and that's basically the state of immigrants," she said. "I like trying other kinds of food! I don't even take food from home."

As you probably know, Nagasu's parents have a sushi restaurant, which makes us both a little jealous, but she says she doesn't go there a lot any more.

"If I want to eat sushi I'm like, 'Daddy, will you make me some sushi?' I like everything except sea urchins. It's an acquired taste and I haven't acquired it yet."

Inside out
We asked Nagasu to play along with our new feature, "Inside the program." She cued up her long program from Four Continents and talked us through it, although she said it felt weird to watch it!

"At the beginning, they showed Tessa and Scott on the Jumbotron, and Scott wasn't expecting it and he jumped. When I got on the ice I heard the laughter, and I was like, 'I wonder what they're laughing at, I hope they're not laughing at me!'

"I wasn't used to skating so quickly after the warm-up. I didn't have time to think so I just went to my starting pose. I just wanted to make the best of it because it was my last competition. The whole week I'd been skating well, except one of my practices was really bad. [Team leader] Doug Williams said, 'It's ok, you just need to get it out of your system.' I was all fired up for the long program.

"Going into my first jump is always the hardest because it sets the pace. If you fall, you might get a little anxious. All I remember was, I just went through it, and I was like, 'Oh I'm done already.' My death drop and combination spins I was really nervous about, after nationals, and my layback too, because I messed that up in France.

"It was kind of one of those program where you do one jump and then you forget about it. I was just doing one jump at a time. I was almost expecting myself to make a mistake, but I didn't! At the end, I was thinking, 'Oh, I didn't make any mistakes!' I'm pretty sure I landed all my jumps clean, too. It was a happy moment for me.

"The crowd was amazing -- they were a good crowd. It was pretty full."

Nagasu also mentioned the humorous moment when she was introduced by the announcer as, "Mirai Nagasu, representing Japan."

"I was like, wait, what just happened?" she said, laughing. "That's not my country!"

Nagasu says she has been enjoying having a little more time to herself since Four Continents than she did last season.

"It's been so much fun," she said. "Since I'm really competitive, I like to skate with Drew Gonzales a lot. We sometimes try triple Axels together. His is so close! It's an inspiration to me. Mine is like a double Axel with a squirrely rotation on the landing, with a full rotation on the ice."

Has she started thinking about next season yet?

"I'm really excited for next season because I have a lot of goals and I feel like I learned a lot this year, more so than last year. I'm particularly fired up for next year because last season I didn't do as well as I wanted, so I hope I can open up a whole new world for women's figure skating. We're discussing music choices now -- I think I'll have my programs in April. It's hard for me to skate to slow music but if that's what best for me that's what I'll do!"

Death Spirals
We watched as much of the recent U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships as we could. We were excited to see some teams including death spirals in their programs -- apparently a Canadian team first introduced the element a few years ago, but it's the first time we had seen it.

It turned out that the champion team, the Haydenettes, learned their death spirals last summer from the pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.

"This year we have a lot of difficult movements and transitions in our programs," said Haydenette member Erika Hoffman. "When we started training we knew we wanted to learn the death spirals so we've been working hard on them all year."

"The thing we worked on the most was establishing the boy and the girl in the death spiral position," said Castelli. "I did a bunch of bridge exercises and taught the girls how to come to their bridge while moving."

Castelli told us that Shnapir and coach Bobby Martin worked with the girls on the pivot position. It takes a lot of strength not to drop the partner!

"The Haydenettes are very determined," said Castelli. "A lot of girls went full speed into the death spirals at first and took crazy falls."

They caught on quickly, though, and a few of them managed to do the element on the first day they tried it.

"They were not easy for all of us to learn," added Hoffman. "We wanted to get them perfect right away, so we took some terrible (yet funny) falls, but it was all worth it. Nationals was an amazing experience this year."

We'll be back soon. Until then, we wish everyone in Japan the best.

Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com
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