GOOD AS GOLD
By Sarah S. Brannen
17-year-old Gracie Gold has it all: athletic prowess, academic excellence, a buoyant personality, a pretty face and a name that’s a headline-writer’s dream. Gold won the free skate and the silver medal at the 2013 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships and finished off her season by helping the U.S. win the World Team Trophy as well as earning three Olympic spots for the U.S. at the 2013 ISU World Championships.
“We wanted those three spots, that was our goal coming there, and we weren’t going to leave without it,” Gold said. “I’m proud of how we skated and how we were able to channel the pressure into our own performances.”
Gold might have been forgiven for wavering under the heap of expectations piled on her in the last year and a half. The U.S. junior ladies champion always has to face a lot of scrutiny, but Gold in particular seized the imagination of the public with her formidable arsenal of high-flying jumps and her winning personality… and then there’s that gleaming name, seeming to portend future greatness.
Gold grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and started skating after a birthday party at an ice rink. She has a twin sister, Carly, who had been a horseback rider but decided to join her sister on the ice after she saw her skate in a show. Carly is also a senior singles competitor; she finished fifth at the 2013 Midwestern Sectional championships, just missing a trip to the U.S. Championships.
The sisters started training at an ISI rink with Amy Vorhaben and Max Liu. They next worked with Alexia Griffin, who put them in touch with Susan Liss in Springfield, Illinois.
“Susan had a lot of good juvenile and intermediate skaters, so Alexia said, ‘Why don’t you start taking lessons with Susan?’” Gold said. “We were starting double axels and triples. So we started commuting to Springfield, Illinois, and then we moved there. We didn’t really understand how skating worked. We had only been skating for three or so years. Now it seems silly that we would have moved our whole family to Springfield, Illinois, rather than a major training center.”
As the sisters progressed, they moved to Chicago to train with Alexander Ouriashev, who is still their coach. With their parents Denise, a retired ER nurse, and Carl, an anesthesiologist, they still live in Illinois. Denise is now acting as Gold’s manager.
Once Gold reached the novice level, she was on everyone’s radar as a rising star. She finished fourth at the 2010 U.S. Championships as a novice. After missing the 2011 U.S. Championships in her first year as a junior, she won a Junior Grand Prix gold medal in Estonia, Midwestern Sectionals and the 2012 U.S. junior title. She finished the season with the silver medal at the 2012 ISU World Junior Championships and another silver at the World Team Trophy.
In the 2012-13 season, Gold won the silver medal at the Rostelecom Cup, her second Grand Prix event. After winning the silver medal at the 2013 U.S. Championships, she went on to finish 6th at both the ISU Four Continents championships and the ISU World Championships, and shared the Team USA gold at the World Team Trophy.
Looking back at her first, very successful senior season, Gold admits that the pressure is mounting.
“The senior season was more emotional and a lot more difficult than the junior year before,” she said. “I had my fingers crossed that I would go to World Team Trophy – last year was so fun and this year was even more fun. As a junior I had never met anyone on my team, this year I definitely felt included. I felt like all of the athletes were a team and wanted the best competition possible.”
As she trains for the upcoming Olympic season, Gold is planning to up her technical content. With seven triples, including triple lutz-triple toe and double Axel-triple toe combinations, the 60.31 base value of her long program is already one of the highest in the world.
“We’ve almost fixed my edge change on triple flip, I’m pretty proud,” she said. “We’re working on double Axel-triple toe in the second half.”
As well as her current jump repertoire, Gold has been working on a triple Axel and quad Salchow on the pole harness.
“We’re not sure where to take it yet, because you have to identify the risk versus the gain,” she said. “If I look at my double Axel on Dartfish, it’s possible for me to do it. We have to think about injuries though – the last thing I want to do is take a really hard fall. We’re going to see how it goes. I want to get it, definitely. There are no official plans about putting it in a program yet.”
Gold’s new long program for the Olympic season was choreographed by Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein to music from the ballet The Sleeping Beauty. She isn’t ready to reveal her short program music yet.
“We’re keeping the short under wraps a little bit longer,” she said. “My first competition will be Skate Milwaukee.”
The 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston will be a sort of homecoming for Gold, who was born in Newton, Massachusetts.
“Both of my parents worked at Mass General Hospital,” she said. “I was four when they moved [away]. I’ve skated at SCOB – I think I was just turning 12. I remember I had sal and toe and I was working on some other triples at that rink. I definitely have positive memories of Boston.”
Gold hopes there will be two Golds on the ice in Boston.
“Carly’s goal is to make Nationals,” she said. “She was very close last year. She wants to go to Boston to compete, not just to support me.”
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