ARCADIA, Calif. – The Indianapolis Colts were kicking off to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. At the same time, 2,700 miles (4,350 km) away at Arcadia Presbyterian Church, there was a kickoff of another sort.
Members of the Pasadena Figure Skating Club were kicking off the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games with a sendoff for Olympian Mirai Nagasu.
“Welcome to Super Bowl skating Sunday,” said Susan Austin, one of Nagasu’s first coaches. “We have our superstar with us here today.
“I’m so excited to celebrate what Mirai has done and cheer you on and send you off to the Olympic Games in Vancouver. I know it was a long journey for Mirai and her parents, so it is so awesome to be here to see her dream being realized.”
More than 200 members of the club, longtime friends and family were in attendance to honor the Arcadia figure skater. Arcadia Mayor John Wuo and Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard both gave the 16-year-old certificates of commendation. Wuo gave Nagasu a bouquet of flowers and invited her to speak at the city’s breakfast in April.
Her former coaches offered praise and fellow skaters recalled memories of when Nagasu began skating with the club at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center when she was 5 years old. After the formal ceremonies, Nagasu was swamped by supporters for photos.
“Having parties like this is always fun,” Nagasu said. “I’m so glad so many people are here to support me. Hopefully I can answer their support at the Olympics.”
Nagasu will march in the opening ceremonies on Friday and then return home to train through Feb. 19, when she will return to Vancouver. The first day of ladies singles competition is Feb. 23.
Former coaches Austin and Sashi Kuchiki offered praises and a letter from another coach, Sandy Gollihugh, who is training skaters in Lake Tahoe (Calif.), was read.
“In the life of a skater there are many ups and downs and challenges,” Austin said. “Mirai never let any of the challenges or downs interrupt her ups. Mirai also has a wonderful sense of humor.
“She would somehow find a way to hide behind me before her lessons. I would be looking for Mirai and somehow there she was with a big smile ready to get to work.”
The club gave Nagasu’s mother, Ikoku, a 2010 U.S. team sweat shirt, which she wore throughout the reception.
“We’re so grateful for everybody to be here,” said Ikoku, who was frequently credited with Mirai’s support; she closed the family’s Arcadia sushi restaurant late at night and then had Mirai at the Pasadena rink before dawn.
Fellow skaters Taryn Jurgensen and Erin Nakano offered encouragement. Jurgensen, a San Marino High School senior, said she was nearly embarrassed with her display when she learned her closest club friend had made the Games. Jurgensen was standing in the lobby of a Seoul hotel after the Four Continents Championships at the time.
“I started jumping up and down and screaming like crazy,” she said. “I made a fool of myself. I was so happy for her and so excited to see how far she has come. It means so much to me to see my best friend go to the Olympics.”
Rachel Flatt, 17, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won the national title two weeks ago in Spokane, Wash., to earn the U.S.’s top Olympic berth.
Nagasu finished second after leading after the short program.