Ice Network

Nagasu hopes to give drama the boot in Taipei City

Skater arrives at Four Continents well-equipped for any potential mishaps
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Whether through her skating performances or her likable personality, Mirai Nagasu has always found a way to engage audiences. -Getty Images

Mirai Nagasu's suitcase will be a little heavier than usual this week when she travels to the 2016 Four Continents Championships in Chinese Taipei.

"She'll be bringing three pairs of skates," explained her coach, Tom Zakrajsek.

The added weight is worth any extra travel charges she incurs considering the stress that the skater and coach went through at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month in Saint Paul, Minnesota. That's where Nagasu's landing boot (right foot) ripped in the middle of her short program.

Even with the equipment malfunction, Nagasu skated a fairly solid routine. Her opening combination, a triple-flip-double toe, was cited for an edge call, but considering she was performing with a loose boot, it was a more-than-acceptable mistake. Despite having to take off and land on the damaged boot, her triple loop, executed late in the program, was clean, and her footwork sequence was rated Level 4.

"I definitely had to turn on autopilot in the middle of that program," Nagasu said, laughing. "Because the boot felt loose, I had to look down a lot during the footwork, and I think that actually helped me get a Level 4."

With the help of Mike Cunningham, skate specialist extraordinaire; former U.S. pairs skater Mark Ladwig, who works as a technical representative for Jackson Ultima; and boot specialists from other manufacturers, the boots were repaired, and Nagasu was able to perform a free skate that earned her fourth place overall. Her routine featured a triple flip-triple toe (also called for an edge) and a solid triple salchow, which has been Nagasu's nemesis.

The incident was just another chapter in the never-boring world of Mirai Nagasu. At the 2014 U.S. Championships, she found herself embroiled in controversy -- through no fault of her own -- when she placed third overall but was passed over for the Olympic team in favor of fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner (who was deserving of the nomination based on her body of work). Then, at the 2015 U.S. Championships, Nagasu crashed into the boards, injuring her knee and placing 12th.

"Last year, I trained so hard and let it slip away," Nagasu said. "I'd much rather have the boot problem than crash in the wall."

Through it all, Nagasu has endeared herself to skating audiences, often earning standing ovations for her performances. The 22-year-old Californian, who trains in Colorado Springs, is known for her beaming smile and her perseverance.

"I think people who love figure skating really relate to me," said Nagasu, who was able to break in a new pair of boots just in time for this week's Four Continents Championships. "I'm far from perfect. There's always something going on, it seems, but I don't do it on purpose -- things just happen."

Just as Nagasu hoped to improve her finish in Saint Paul after experiencing disappointment at back-to-back U.S. championships, she is also out to erase the memory of her last time competing at Four Continents, in 2014, when she was sick and placed 10th.

Four Continents will mark the end of Nagasu's season, but the 2010 Olympian plans on continuing through this quad, with a goal of competing at the next Winter Games in 2018.

By the time those roll around, Nagasu will be almost 25, but her coach doesn't see any reason why she can't still be a contender in two years.

"A lot of the officials told me at nationals that they had not seen her skate like that since Vancouver," Zakrajsek said. "I really think that she's got her mojo back. She has a great foundation, and she is one tough cookie.

He then added, "I already tweeted after nationals that 2016 is going to be her best year ever, and I really believe that."