‘I literally cried my way through the Olympics’
FIGURE skater Mirai Nagasu apologised for her tone-deaf comments after Team USA's poor showing in PyeongChang, blaming her remarks on the draining nature of this year's Winter Olympics.
"I feel really, really awful about the things I said," a tearful Nagasu, 24, told People on Saturday. "I feel bad that people think that I was throwing my teammates under the bus because I never wanted to come off that way."
She added, "This has been a test of my perseverance, and I truly have a new appreciation for the term 'Olympian,' because it is so, so difficult to be away from home for three weeks and to be on all the time.
"I think I've literally cried my way through these Olympic Games. It's been an experience that I will never forget. … There have been tears of joy [and] tears of stress and it's just been an emotional week, and I feel like I've learned so much about myself."
Nagasu came under fire last week after she told press that she saw her disappointing individual performance, in which she finished 10th, as a "Dancing with the Stars" audition, then claimed to have "saved" the Americans during the team competition, in which they took bronze.
"I would like to be on 'Dancing With the Stars' because I am a star," Nagasu told USA Today after her final individual performance on the ice. "I made history here by landing the first triple axel for a US lady at the Olympics so I think that is a big deal.
"I hope I get more opportunities to let my personality just shine. … I smiled in the middle of my program. It is really rare for me, but I enjoyed myself and I thought of this as my audition [for 'Dancing with the Stars'].
"It's been a long three weeks, and we got here and got to walk in the opening ceremonies and then I saved the team event, with Adam [Rippon] and the Shibutanis. We were about to lose our medals so today I put my medal in my pocket and said, 'Mirai, you have done your job already and this is all just icing.'"
Nagasu also issued a mea culpa to her teammates.
"I had my dream Olympic skate [in the team event] and to me, I've been dreaming of that moment for such a long time, it made me feel like a superhero and superheroes save the day. And I wish I had said that we were all superheroes during the team event," she said.
"To watch Chris and Alexa [Knierim, pair skaters], I train with them, to see the way they competed, to see Bradie [Tennell] put out a great performance, and Nathan [Chen] and Adam [Rippon] and [ice dancers] Maia and Alex [Shibutani] - everyone did their part, and so I didn't mean to say that I saved the team by myself. We were all heroes that day and I apologise, especially to my teammates, for how it came off."
Nagasu lamented: "I don't know if I can stress enough how mentally exhausting this all is, and to have gone out there and attacked every single element even though it wasn't enough - I feel especially bad that my comments weren't a good representation of me and I came off really poorly. I think above all else our job here is to represent Team USA to the best of our ability, and I didn't do that yesterday and that's something I have a lot of regret about."
As far as her "DWTS" comments specifically, Nagasu claimed that it was a poorly worded explanation of advice she'd received from a sports psychologist leading up to the competition. The psychologist reportedly told Nagasu to focus on something other than repeating her first free skating performance, so she focused on her potential future competition for a Mirror Ball trophy.
"I used that as a distraction and I probably should have kept it to myself. … It didn't come out the way I wanted it to," she said. "My Olympic moment from the individual event was that I was really able to enjoy my skating, and so that meant a lot to me and I didn't portray that accurately."
Nagasu hopes to redeem herself at the upcoming figure skating world championships and reflected on her historic triple axel - and on the failed attempts to mimic it in the individual competition.
"I just didn't get up into the air and [I] bailed, and I have no excuse for that. It's really hard to watch and even think about, because I nailed so many in practice. I cried about it at home, but I didn't really want to be so emotional in front of everyone. But it sucks to be capable of being able to do such an amazing element and just not be able to do it in competition," she said.
"I can't take back the hard work that I did, and so I have to be happy. And I'm really proud of a 10th-place finish, even though I would have liked better. It's how I performed and what I deserved yesterday and so it's something that I'm still proud of.
"I only did it once, but it's something that I won't forget because no one can take that away from me. And to have done it not for myself but for my team and for Team USA, I think I will remember that the most."