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U.S. Nationals: Mirai Nagasu Pulls Off Shocker

McLaughlin and Brubaker Coast to First Title

Mirai Nagasu has a habit of pulling off upsets at the U.S. Championships. This year, she became the second-youngest female to win a senior title at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, begin held in St. Paul, Minn.

The 4-foot-11 native of Arcadia, Calif. overcame an early fall to win the ladies crown in her senior debut. Last year, Nagasu was the junior ladies champion at nationals, knocking off another then 13-year-old, Caroline Zhang, who went into that competition with a lot of hype surrounding her.

Rachael Flatt, 15, was second last night, and Ashley Wagner, 16, finished third. Zhang placed fourth while defending champion Kimmie Meissner fell three times en route to a disappointing seventh-place finish.

“That’s a bummer. … I was pretty confident coming in, but I just lost it,” Meissner said.

Meissner is the first women’s singles champion who returned to nationals and failed to successfully defend her crown since Michelle Kwan in 1997. That year Kwan fell twice and lost to Tara Lipinski, the youngest ladies skater to win a senior title.

After falling on her double Axel last night, Nagasu landed six triple jumps, including a triple-triple that followed her early spill. “When I fell, I said, ‘What am I doing? I have to get it back under control and then attack,’” Nagasu said.

Flatt was in third going into the free skate but skated flawlessly. She hit seven triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop, to take the silver medal. Wagner fell from second place after to the short to the bronze-medal spot but she was picked for the U.S. World team.

Nagasu and Flatt, 15, are not age eligible to compete at Worlds (nor is Zhang). After the competition, U.S. Figure Skating named Wagner, fifth-place finisher Beatrisa Liang, 19, and Meissner to the World team. Officials bypassed Katrina Hacker, 17, who was the sixth-place finisher.

ICE DANCE

Earlier Saturday, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won a record-tying fifth consecutive U.S. ice dance title. They earned 109.92 points for their free dance and an overall mark of 216.07. Both totals were their highest scores at the U.S. Championships.

“I think that was the best free dance performance we've had so far,” Belbin said. “At the end, I said to Ben, ‘That’s the best we’ve done in years.’”

Training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White claimed the silver medal. They earned 103.54 points for their free dance and an overall competition score of 206.82 points.

Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre had a break-through at these championships by claiming their first medal at nationals as seniors. They placed third with 187.94 overall points.

THE PAIRS

In pairs, newcomers Keanua McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, the 2007 World junior champions, won their first U.S. senior pairs title. But at 15, McLaughlin is not age-eligible to compete at the 2008 World Championships. At 21, he is too old to compete at the 2008 World Junior Championships so they finished their season in St. Paul.

“I can’t believe we're the national champions,” McLaughlin said.

The duo earned 124.20 points for their free skate and 190.74 points overall.

Although they had one major error (she fell on a jump), they made up for it with a technically demanding program that showed lots of personality. They performed a solid Lasso lift and landed a high triple twist. They nailed a throw triple Salchow, a throw triple loop and side-by-side double Axels.

McLaughlin fell on the landing of the first jump when the couple attempted their side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe combination.

John Baldwin, Jr. and Rena Inoue, who took the silver medal in pairs, shared a special moment before the crowd at the Xcel Center. Baldwin proposed to Inoue on the ice after their free skate. An emotional Inoue said yes.

The couple skated a solid program and earned 117.93 last night and an overall competition score of 183.17 points. They are two-time U.S. champions, but took off the Grand Prix Series and instead did shows. This competition was their first of the season.

The 2007 champions, Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski, took home bronze this year. They also sat out the Grand Prix Series this fall due to knee and leg injuries to Castile.


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