U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu’s 2018 Winter Olympics include a bronze-medal win in the team event after a season’s-best skating performance, followed by two subsequent routines that placed her far from the podium in her individual competition.
She attempted and succeeded at the tricky triple axel jump, the first American woman to do so at the Games.
Then she tried it again in her individual skate and fell; she scrapped a third attempt mid-skate.
In the middle of that up-and-down Olympic experience, Nagasu, 24, got a supportive message via Instagram from none other than Saturday Night Live actress Leslie Jones.
“ said, ‘This is the Olympics, it’s not easy and you went for a jump that no one else went for in the women’s event, so you should be proud of yourself,’ ” Nagasu recalls of what Jones said.
Speaking to PEOPLE in an exclusive interview on Saturday, Nagasu said Jones, 50, also told her:”‘There’s so much more, I know it’s hard to see right now, especially when you’ve worked for this event for so many years, but there so much more to life.’ ”
“For her to reach out to me like that really meant a lot and she said, ‘Keep your head up and keep at it,’ and I think that’s a great message for me and for other athletes,” Nagasu says. “I’m really grateful to the people I’ve met here and I won’t be around for the next Olympics, but I’ll definitely be supporting all of the athletes.”
Keep Following PEOPLE’s Complete Coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics
Jones, a noted Olympics fan, was hired by NBC as a contributor for these Games and has been popping up all over.
She strutted to Beyoncé with Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir and she was there to meet teenage speed skater Maame Biney after Biney’s disappointing finish in her last Olympic event.
But Jones isn’t the only person cheering on Nagasu: In addition to the support of her skating teammates (including close friend Adam Rippon), she has also exchanged messages with figure skating legend Michelle Kwan.
Kwan told PEOPLE recently that she sent Nagasu a note after watching her land the triple axel.
RELATED VIDEO: U.S. Women’s Figure Skaters Describe ‘Exhausting’ Olympics After Finishing Far From the Podium
“I wrote ‘that a girl,’ and she wrote, ‘Thank you,’ and she had little emoji with the bronze emoji,” Kwan said. “I was like, ‘Uh-uh, emoji gold, let’s go after the gold.’ ”
“Watching her do that triple axel and just nailing it, I was screaming,” said Kwan, 37.
“Then following that, having the rest of the program just perfect, clean and just absolutely amazing, then taking home the bronze medal, I was so proud of her,” she said.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.