You may not be familiar with 15-year-old figure skater Mirai Nagasu's name yet, but you probably will be soon! After becoming the 2008 U.S. National Champion, Mirai's star is on the rise and she's on her way to becoming one of the best-known skaters in the world. IML spoke with Mirai about her sport and how to balance being both a teenager and an athlete.
IML: How did you first get into figure skating?
Mirai: Well, due to typical sunny beautiful California weather, my parents always loved to take me to play golf with them...but one rainy day, my mom decided to
take me ice skating and that's when I knew I wanted to keep skating...Bye bye golf!
IML: When did you know you wanted to skate competitively?
Mirai: I'm not sure when I wanted start skating competitively, but I do remember that my mom enrolled me in skating school. Then everything began in the domino process. The first thing they taught me at skating school was how to fall, and that's when I started complaining that that wasn't skating. My mom decided to get me private lessons, not knowing what she was getting herself into, and then things just kept going...
IML: Do you feel like skating helps you in other areas of your life, like giving you self confidence or helping you deal with stress?
Mirai: Skating has definitely helped me learn some real-life lessons like patience and determination, but it has also given me some major stress! That's where school has come to help me...school is a place where I can be a normal teenager, but all the tests and studying in school gives me stress as well. I think that's where my love for skating really helps me push through. I guess it's the balance in my life is what keeps me going!
IML: How do you deal with disappointment in your sport, such as when you don't skate as well as you know you can?
Mirai: Disappointment is one of the real life lessons that skating teaches me. It's all a learning experience, and right now, through my journey of ups and downs, I'm learning what works for me and what doesn't! But sometimes when you're feeling down, a chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bar always tastes really good!
IML: Why do you think it's important for young people to find some kind of physical activity they like and do it regularly?
Mirai: I think it's a vital part of life to find a physical activity because it's good for your health, it's fun, and sports teach you life lessons like teamwork and patience. Also, because of the high technology of today, many kids (including me) like to play video games and sit around all day, which we really can't (and shouldn't) do 24/7!
IML: We hear your schedule is really crazy. What's a typical day like for you?
Mirai: I wake up at 5am, get to the rink by 6, skate for about 2 hours, and then rush to school! School ends at 3pm, and then I become a regular teenager and do homework until the end of the day! Through the whole time however, I always find some way every day to eat my parents' delicious food!
IML: Everyone has trouble with time management. Do you have any tips for other young people?
Mirai: Don't procrastinate! I should be giving that advice to myself! :P
IML: Do you ever wish you could just be a "normal teen" and not have skating in your life?
Mirai: I want to say I never wish to become a normal teen, but sometimes I do...I feel bad because I usually never get to go out with my friends and have girl time, but then I think about the all the people supporting me, and I realize that I want to work hard and give back to those people.
IML: Since your parents were born in Japan and you were born in the US, do you and they ever have "culture clashes"?
Mirai: Surprisingly, we don't have that many culture clashes. My family has kind of created our own culture...it should be called "Jamerican." We've mixed both cultures and formed it into our everyday life! For instance, we eat hamburgers and noodles, we speak a mixture of the two languages, etc.
IML: What are your favorite parts of Japanese culture?
Mirai: I love everything about Japanese culture. The healthy food, the anime and J-doramas, the picture booths called purikura....EVERYTHING :D
IML: Are there any causes that you feel really passionate about?
Mirai: Right now, my school friends and I are in the middle of forming a club that will raise money to help kids in Malawi. I'm in charge of putting together something called Club Day at my school to attract more members into our club!
IML: We've heard that reading is one of your favorite hobbies. What's your favorite book at the moment?
Mirai: At the moment my favorite book is "My Personal Best" by John Wooden, but I'm in the middle of reading "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult, which is really, really good!
IML: What do you think it means for a girl to be "strong" both physically andmentally?
Mirai: I believe that every girl in this world is strong in her own way...which is why I can't state the requirements to be a "strong" girl. I believe everyone has their strong points and weak points, and we girls all have a little special something to us! Girl Power!
IML: Thanks, Mirai...and good luck! We'll be watching you!
Mirai: Thank you!
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