Mirai Nagasu isn’t going to the world championships, but it sure looks like the U.S. team could use her next month.
The 2010 Olympian earned bronze at the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, setting new personal-best free-skate and total scores.
Nagasu, in her ninth season of senior international competition, tallied 132.04 and 194.95 points, respectively, at the world championships and Olympics tune-up event.
“To have all those months of training come to fruition is why work hard and why I keep coming back,” said Nagasu, who just missed the 2014 Olympic team. “When these moments happen, it’s so exciting and so gratifying. It just validates my reason for training hard every day, doing programs even when I don’t feel like it and getting up when I fall.”
Japan’s Mai Mihara took gold with 200.85 total points, improving from fourth after Thursday’s short program. Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman, the short-program leader, held on for silver with 196.91 points.
Nagasu, who was fifth after the short program, had the second-best free skate score behind Mihara and earned her second straight Four Continents medal after silver in 2016. She landed seven triple jumps in a clean program.
“The bronze means more to me,” Nagasu said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “The performance I was able to put out tonight was just amazing. It felt magical.”
Full results are here. NBC will air coverage at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Nagasu finished fourth at the U.S. Championships last month, missing the three-woman worlds team. Two of the three women who beat her at nationals were also at Four Continents.
U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell finished sixth on Saturday, 17.85 points shy of Nagasu, while U.S. champion Karen Chen was 12th, 28.13 points behind Nagasu. Both Bell and Chen, who have few accolades internationally, spoke afterward about nerves at Four Continents.
“Not exactly how I wanted it to go,” Bell said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “There were a few pretty big mistakes, but overall, this was the most pressure I think I’ve had in an event.”
U.S. silver medalist Ashley Wagner skipped Four Continents, as she usually does, to prepare for worlds next month in Helsinki.
The top two U.S. women at worlds out of Bell, Chen and Wagner must have placements that add up to no greater than 13 for the U.S. to earn the maximum three entries at the PyeongChang Olympics. Say, sixth and seventh place.
That likely won’t happen if Bell and Chen repeat their performances from Four Continents, given this week’s competition didn’t include skaters from Europe.
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