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What is the Triple Axel: Mirai Nagasu becomes first American to land historic jump at Olympics

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Mirai Nagasu became the first American to land the historic jump at the Olympics. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

For Olympic figure skaters, all those hours, jumps and training are boiled down to around six or seven minutes during the Winter games.

Mirai Nagasu became the first ever American woman to land a triple axel at the Winter Olympics, and only the third overall. Only two other American women have even landed it at any competition: Tonya Harding in 1991 and Kimmie Meissner in 2005.

Harding, who was 20 years old at the time, performed the momentous routine at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Speaking to ABC News about the event earlier this year she said, "It was like, 'BAM.' I was like, 'Yes.'"

"I just did it. Nobody else did it," she continued. "Nobody helped me land that triple axel right there in that moment."

The six most common jumps in competitive figure skating can be divided into two categories: toe jumps - the toe loop, the flip, and the Lutz - and edge jumps - the Salchow, loop, and the axel. The name axel comes from the skater, Axel Paulsen, who invented the jump in 1882.

The axel takes off from a forward outside edge, rotates in the direction of the take-off edge, and lands on the opposite foot on a back outside edge. A double Axel requires two-and-a-half rotations in the air, and a triple Axel three-and-a-half rotations in the air. For ladies, it's a required element in both the short program and the free skate in the Olympics and most competitors land a double. Mirai Nagasu decided to try the triple. The successful feat drew huge cheers from the crowd at the Gangneung Ice Arena. The judges rewarded her with a 137.53, which helped the U.S. nab the bronze medal.

"I was very, very nervous, especially because this is the team event. I owe it to my teammates as well," Nagasu said after her skate. "I heard them say, 'Start, start, start!' especially Alexa (Scimeca-Knierim) because she has a very distinct voice. Right before my last jump, she said to me, 'You did it, girl!' I was like, I still have one more jump, but it was a nice little giggle at the end."

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sportsOlympicsu.s. & world