Mirai Nagasu finished in first place after the ladies’ short program at the Cup of China Friday, making a fierce return to the ice after summer largely given up to recovering from a stress fracture in her right foot.
It looks like all that time de-stressing on the beach with friends and family did her good. Olympic champion Evan Lysacek—who trains with Nagasu—told commentator Tara Lipinksi that coming back from the injury has made Nagasu a much more focused competitor. Hopefully this will help her overcome nerves that took such a toll at the World Championships last March where she also placed first in the short program, but ended up a disappointing 7th.
Nagasu appeared confident as she entered the ice, after one last powwow with coach Frank Carroll. As the camera showed her emphatically nodding while Carroll spoke, Lipiniski commented on her enthusiasm and they way Nagasu always just looks like she wants to get out there and get it done.
And she did.
She opened with a perfect triple lutz-double toe combination that got even Lipinski to raise her voice, hung on to her second jump, and delivered her trademark layback spins—the type that prompted Johnny Weir to exclaim that she was missing bones in her back at the 2010 Worlds.
The great thing about Nagasu is her presence on the ice, the character that she brings into her programs–something often missing in young skaters. For this season’s short program she skates to music from The Witches of Eastwick, and watching her face you cannot help but get swept into the performance.
Lipinski commented not only on Nagasu’s great facial and body expression, but the on the improvement of her jumps which have become much bigger over the summer, summing up, “That is a pretty impressive return to the ice for Mirai Nagasu.”
At the end of the entire field Lipinski reflected on all of the ladies and said that she certainly thought Nagasu deserved her first place finish for the shorts.
All the same, the margin between the first (58.76), second (57.97) and third place (56.11) finishes is miniscule, so the free skate program is sure to be intense. Akiko Suzuki of Japan finished the first leg of competition in second and fellow Japanese skater Miki Ando stands in third.