Mirai Nagasu becomes first American woman to land triple axel jump at Olympics

During the figure skating team competition on Sunday night, 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.

Nagasu joins Midori Ito of 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.

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.

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SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 05: Mirai Nagasu competes in the Ladies Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 5, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Adam Rippon of the United States of America celebrates after competing in the Figure Skating Team Event Men's Single Free Skating on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 12, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Nathan Chen of the United States awaits his score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Event - Men's Single Skating Short Program during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 9, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 11: Bradie Tennell of the United States looks on during the Figure Skating Team Event � Pairs Free Skating on day two of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 11, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
USA's Alex Shibutani and USA's Maia Shibutani compete in the figure skating team event ice dance short dance during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 11, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's Natalia Zabiiako and Russia's Alexander Enbert compete in the figure skating team event pair skating free skating during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 11, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Team Event Pair Skating short program ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the U.S. compete. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Team Event Pair Free Skating ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the U.S. compete. REUTERS/John Sibley
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