ICE SKATING: Nagasu reigns supreme

Arcadia freshman wins skating title

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ST. PAUL, MN – JANUARY 26: Mirai Nagasu competes in the free skate portion of the ladies event during the US Figure Skating Championships January 26, 2008 at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Question: What are your thoughts on the rule that she can’t compete at the World Championships in March because she isn’t 15 yet?

By Nancy Armour, The Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. – This is what figure skating has been looking for.
Mirai Nagasu, a freshman at Arcadia High School, delighted the crowd – and herself – with an entertaining show at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night.
The 14-year-old also became the second-youngest woman behind Tara Lipinski to win the U.S. title.
“I am very excited and speechless for words,” Nagasu said.
Nagasu is too young to go to the world championships in March; skaters now must be 15 by the previous July 1 and she won’t even turn 15 until April. Rachael Flatt, who finished second, missed the cutoff by three weeks and will have to sit worlds out, too. Ashley Wagner finished third, and she is eligible for worlds.
Nagasu appears to be a breath of fresh air in playing on her youth and size – she’s 4-foot-11 – instead of trying to be something she’s not.
She fell on her opening jump, a double axel, but she quickly regrouped.
“The fall on the double axel was like a kick in the butt,” she said. “After that, I was like, `Attack!’ ”
Perhaps most impressive is Saturday marked the first time Nagasu has competed a 4-minute program. She spent the fall on the junior international circuit, where she only had to do a 3 -minute routine.
Flatt’s skating was as bright as the smile on her face from the time she took the ice to the time she left it. In third place after the short program, she overtook Wagner with a routine
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that included playful footwork and seven triple jumps.
Defending champion Kimmie Meissner’s stunning decline continued with another mistake-filled program. Two years after winning the world title, she managed only a seventh-place finish here.
She was the first U.S. woman since Lipinski in 1998 to fail to defend her title.
“I didn’t have a good competition here, which is very unfortunate,” Meissner said. “I’m so upset. I need to think about what I did here and why, and I need to fix it.”
She’s been struggling all season. After a disastrous showing at last month’s Grand Prix final, where she finished last in the six-woman field, she retooled her entire free skate.
It didn’t work.
She fell on her first two jumps, a triple flip and a triple lutz, and managed only two clean triple jumps. She did a double axel-double toe loop combination twice, which meant one won’t count. She was downcast as she left the ice, and the audience tried to cheer her with applause as she waited for her marks. She mouthed “Thank you,” but tears filled her eyes when she saw the scores.
“It’s more mental,” Meissner said when asked what is wrong. “I was pretty confident, but I just lost it.”
Earlier Saturday, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubacker got the pairs title while John Baldwin Jr. got the girl, and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto extended their dominance in ice dance in record-setting fashion.
McLaughlin and Brubaker last year’s junior world champions, served notice they’re going to be a threat on the senior stage as well by winning the pairs title in only their second season together. But they’ll have to wait to take on the rest of the world because she is too young to go to the world championships in March.
Baldwin surprised partner and long-time girlfriend Rena Inoue after their performance by dropping to one knee and proposing to her at center ice. Inoue, stunned at first, tearfully said yes as the crowd cheered.
“I told her she’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, how much respect I have for her and that everything I’ve accomplished in my career and on the ice is because of her,” Baldwin said.
Belbin and Agosto won their fifth consecutive dance title and tied four other couples for most in U.S. history. Skating a technically ambitious and beautifully executed performance, they scored 216.07 points and easily beat training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
“I said to Ben at the end, `This is the best in years,’ ” Belbin said.