GREENSBORO, N.C. — No tricks, no potions. Just Mirai Nagasu being her usual enchanting self.
The 2008 champion edged out fellow previous winners Alissa Czisny and Rachael Flatt in the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday night with a beguiling routine to “Witches of Eastwick.”
But with the margin between the three so small — just 1.03 points, to be exact— and only two spots on the world team available, Saturday night’s free skate should be quite the show.
“Being the best in the country, it’s like a label and it’s one that I want,” Nagasu said.
Nagasu scored 63.35 points while Czisny, the 2009 champ, had 62.50 points. Flatt, the defending champion, scored 62.32.
Nagasu was fourth at the Vancouver Olympics, and her lyrical style, expressiveness and charming personality made many think she was on the verge of becoming figure skating’s next big star. But the 17-year-old doesn’t have quite the confidence in herself others do, and those doubts tend to come out at the most inopportune times.
She led the world championships after the short program, but came apart in the free skate and dropped to seventh. A stress fracture that kept her off the ice for two months this summer got her down and made for a rough start of the year. As recently as Tuesday, her emotions were still so jumbled that coach Frank Carroll had to give her another lecture.
“I’ve been competing like a chicken all year,” Nagasu said. “But I’ve been working my butt off. … I hope I can show the judges I can represent the USA well.”
This was a good start.
Nagasu has the athletic tricks to stand up to any of the top women in the world. Her triple lutz-double toe loop combination was seamless, and she flew across the rink at such high speed she’s lucky she didn’t get pulled over. She punctuated the landing of her double axel with a little hand flourish as if to say, “Go ahead, see if you can top this.”