GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - As Mirai Nagasu lit up the Winter Olympics ice with a scintillating figure skating performance on Monday, her parents were just hitting the middle of the dinner rush and weren’t able to watch.
Kiyoto Nagasu was behind the counter at Kiyosuzu, a Japanese restaurant in Arcadia, Calif., a quaint and welcoming spot that serves a healthy helping of friendly charm along with a delicious and enterprising menu. His wife, Ikuko, was greeting customers, taking orders, and trying to make sure the whole evening program ran smoothly.
“It was so busy at the restaurant so we are waiting to go home and watch (on DVR),” Ikuko told USA TODAY Sports, in a telephone conversation. “We are very happy because we heard it went well.”
Oh, it did. Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition and scored 137.53, second-best of the women’s free skate in the team event. It essentially wrapped up a bronze for the United States, which was later clinched by dance pair Maia and Alex Shibutani.
Nagasu is at her best when she is being creative, and that vibrant spark comes from her upbringing, when she would spend hours at Kiyosuzu, chatting with customers, doing her homework and waiting for her dad to sneak her tasty treats.
Kiyoto Nagasu isn’t your typical sushi chef, bending some traditional conventions to seek new and intriguing ways to prepare fish dishes. His daughter, whose emotional performances have made her arguably America’s most loved modern figure skater, credits her childhood environment for the imaginative mindset she takes to the ice.
“My dad is a very creative type of person so he has rolls that make no sense to most people familiar with sushi,” Mirai Nagasu said earlier this year. “He has a High Five roll. What is that? Don’t ask questions. Just try it.
“He’s kind of mischievous and that’s how I am too. I like to be bold and different and to go and try things. I believe in adventure and imagination and I got that from my parents, and the things I experienced as a child.”
For special occasions, Kiyoto also makes the Mirai Roll, in his daughter’s honor. It was created when 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi came to visit the restaurant and contains tuna, tuna tatako, avocado, mentaiko (pollock roe), shrimp and tempura. In the name of investigative journalism, USA TODAY Sports is pleased to announce it is just as good as it sounds.
For the last week of Games, however, it will be off the menu at Kiyosuzu. In fact, there will be no menu at all. For the first time in years, the restaurant will close so that the Nagasus can watch Mirai in Pyeongchang in the women's individual.
“The business is important, but it is special to be able to watch Mirai,” Ikuko said. “We will shut the restaurant, go quickly, and come back quickly.”
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