Figure skating is an art form of mastering dangerous-looking feats: You dance and jump around while on slippery ice, wearing sharp metal blades as footwear. And though all of the moves the sport includes seem out of reach (to me, at least), landing a triple axel sounds more like folklore fodder than a Sunday-night activity to even the most seasoned figure skaters. USA Today reports that only three female Olympians have successfully executed the move in the history of the games, and last night at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Mirai Nagasu became one of them.
According to NBC, the move is especially difficult in the figure-skating world for a couple reasons: First, the axel is the only forward-facing jump. On top of that, the triple axel specifically requires gaining enough air to rotate three and a half times before landing. So it’s understandable why only two women have landed the jump at the Olympics before 24-year-old Nagasu became the first American woman to do so (30 seconds into her routine, no less).
“I would have dreams that I could do this jump, then I would try it on ice, and I would fall. But I knew in my heart this day would come.” —Mirai Nagasu
While Nagasu may have made the jump look effortless, it was really anything but. The athlete spent years of her life practicing and dealing with a fair share of setbacks. Namely, in 2014, a US Figure Skating committee decided not to let her compete at the Sochi Olympics, even though so many expected her to do so after she ranked third at the US Figure Skating Championships.
“This is a journey that started with me wanting to become better and improve and change myself. It doesn’t happen immediately. It was rough,” the Olympian told USA Today. “I would have dreams that I could do this jump, then I would try it on ice, and I would fall. But I knew in my heart this day would come.”