American figure skater creates history with triple axel

During the figure skating team competition on Monday, the 24-year-old Mirai Nagasu became the first American in history to land a triple axel jump at the Olympics.

She also became just the second American woman to land the jump in international competition, and the first do so in nearly 27 years – since Tonya Harding landed a triple axel at the 1991 World Championships.

Nagasu put the jump at the start of her program when he legs were still fresh, a decision that paid off in not just boosting her morale for the rest of the performance, but also in maximizing her final score.

She finished with a huge technical score of 73.38 and a total score of 137.53, a personal best.

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Mirai Nagasu. Pic: Getty

Nagasu joins Midori Ito and Mao Asada, both from Japan, as the only women ever to land a triple axel at the Olympics.

American Kimmie Meissner also landed a triple axel at the 2005 U.S. Nationals, but Harding and Nagasu remain two of just seven women ever to land the jump at international competition.

"I like to start off the program with the triple axel because I like to be on fresh legs and I like to have a fresh start," Nagasu told Yahoo Sports before the Olympics.

"When I nail that jump in the Olympics, I will be ecstatic and then the rest of the program I will just let it happen and let muscle memory take over."

The reason there are so few female skaters in history who have a triple axel in the arsenal of jumps is essentially the same reason that no skater, man or woman, has ever landed a quad axel in competition.

The axel is the only jump with a forward facing entry, so every jump actually has an extra half of a rotation.

A triple axel actually requires three-and-a-half rotations in the air rather than the three rotations in ever other triple jump.

Nagasu finished second in the ladies' portion of the team competition, behind 15-year-old teenager Alina Zagitova.

Zagitova, born in May 2002, is competing as part of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team.

with Tanya Ray Fox, Yahoo Sports