It’s a new season for Mirai Nagasu, the beloved U.S. figure skater tearfully left off the 2014 Olympic team.
Season five, to be exact.
“Today, before I competed, I watched season five, episode one of ‘RuPaul‘s Drag Race,’ so that I could channel my inner queen,” Nagasu said after finishing second at the U.S. International Classic on Saturday night.
Japan’s Marin Honda, 16 and the country’s new female face after Mao Asada‘s retirement, won the international season opener by 11.79 points in Salt Lake City.
That was to be expected, even though Honda had never before skated on the senior international level.
That’s how ballyhooed she is. Honda has 217,000 Instagram followers. Her personal-best score from last season — in junior competition — was higher than any U.S. senior woman at worlds.
Instead, the drama as the Olympic season began concerned three of the top four U.S. women from last year.
It’s rare that so many Olympic team contenders gather for one competition in September, five months before the Winter Games.
Nagasu, fourth at the last two U.S. Championships, overtook U.S. champion Karen Chen for silver by 1.22 points at the B-level International Classic after being in third place after Friday’s short program.
Nagasu easily outdistanced U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell by 14.88 points.
None of the three skaters were close to clean.
Nagasu, though she became the second U.S. woman to land a triple Axel in international competition (after Tonya Harding), two-footed landings on the jump in both programs. Not so bad.
But what hurt more was having six other jumps called under-rotated in her free skate, including a fall.
It’s the kind of performance that, if repeated at the U.S. Championships in January, could give Olympic team selectors reason to leave Nagasu home again.
“My butt hurts a little bit, so I’m going to go ice it,” Nagasu said. “Which is ironic, because I fell on ice.”
Chen and Bell also both fell in their free skates.
The Olympic team of three women will be announced after nationals. Nagasu’s finish there will largely determine whether she makes her second Olympic team at age 24 — eight years after placing fourth in Vancouver.
But, as what showed four years ago when Nagasu was third at nationals and passed over, results before the U.S. Championships matter.
Nagasu will go into the fall Grand Prix series knowing she has bettered two of her main rivals for places in PyeongChang.
But Nagasu was not the highest-scoring American this weekend. Bradie Tennell, 19 and making her senior international debut in Italy, tallied 13.16 points more than Nagasu.
Granted, scores at the Italian competition were higher across the board than in Salt Lake City.
Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner‘s season debut is set for October.
Earlier Saturday, world silver medalist Shoma Uno won the Lombardia Trophy with the fourth-best score of all time — 319.84 points. Only Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu has scored higher.
Uno’s total was also the highest score ever in a competition in September, the month some (but not all) skaters ease into their seasons at lower-level events.
The previous high was 275.04, set by Nathan Chen at the U.S. International Classic earlier this week.
Comparing scores between B-level events isn’t quite apples to apples, but that Uno outscored Chen by 44.8 points this week was noteworthy.
They are the only male Olympic medal contenders to compete internationally so far this season.
Uno attempted and landed seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Lombardia. Chen, who has the ability to throw seven quads, eased into the Olympic season with three quads in Salt Lake City.
At Lombardia, Uno distanced second-place Jason Brown by a whopping 59.96 points.
Brown, a Sochi Olympian and 2015 U.S. champion, is in the running for one of three U.S. Olympic spots along with Chen, Vincent Zhou and Adam Rippon, among others.
Brown attempted one quad at Lombardia, falling in the short program. His score — 259.88 — was 1.67 points fewer than 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron totaled at the U.S. Classic this week.
The figure skating season continues next week with the last two male world champions — training partners Hanyu and Javier Fernandez — facing off at the Autumn Classic in Montreal. Medvedeva also makes her international season debut in Slovakia.
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