Why Olympic Figure Skater Mirai Nagasu Identifies With Hannah Montana

Mirai Nagasu is a bronze-medal-winning Olympic figure skater, and the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics in 2018. Here’s what makes her feel powerful...
I feel most powerful when…
I’m out on the ice. I feel like that’s my element of choice. I grew up in the era of Hannah Montana. When I was off the ice, I was just a normal kid, and when I was on the ice, I was an athlete going out in full force to achieve my dreams and goals. That gave me the most power. When I set out to achieve something that feels impossible, that’s the closest thing to feeling like a superhero.
What does power mean to you?
Power is influence. It’s about how you can influence yourself, and use your influence for good.
I'm really proud to be Asian American — a community that hasn't historically been very outspoken. But for the next generation, it's all about breaking down those barriers and doing things that weren't even an option to us growing up.
In figure skating, I'm really lucky that I had role models to look up to, so it was a little easier for me to chase my dreams, make the 2018 Olympic team after being cut in 2014, and landing that triple axel. For me, that was power, and it was influenced by those who came before me.
What do you do when you feel powerless?
I find power in my family, and reaching out to them. I also share a really deep connection with my dogs. I find sometimes when I don’t have the power to fight for myself, to have an animal who relies on me — relies on me emotionally and financially to feed him — it gives me purpose. Sometimes I feel like I’m really selfish, so to be able to go out and fight for something other than myself is really what I do when I’m feeling powerless.
Today, I have three dogs. But in 2014, I leaned on my deep shared connection with my pugalier. His name’s Lincoln. I got him when I was feeling my loneliest after 2014. I got him at the shelter, and he was just sitting in the window. I felt like a shell of a person, but he followed me around everywhere and helped me overcome 2014.
What's your power anthem?
I really like Eminem, going into competition. I think he really raps with a message. So, I like the song “Not Afraid.”
Who's your power icon?
Definitely Michelle Obama. As First Lady, she embodied the definition of female boss lady. And to see how she championed the cause of healthy school lunches for all was truly inspiring.
What do you wear when you want to feel powerful?
I really find it ironic that I ended up becoming a figure skater. Because figure skaters have this stigma that we’re girly girls who like the sparkles and the beauty aspect of the sport. Ultimately, when you tear that away, the sport is hard on the body. And so, I feel most comfortable and powerful when I'm in my yoga pants.
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
For more female-athlete content, check out On Her Turf.

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