Gracie Gold went through a recent bad patch. Problems with her longtime coach. Poor skating in both programs at her first international event of the Olympic season. Even looking shaky in a brief exhibition at the U.S. Olympic media summit.
It had reached the point where Gold, 18, knew she needed to make a dramatic change before things got out of control in the most significant season so far of her skating career.
Few changes could be more dramatic than picking up and moving 1,800 miles from suburban Chicago to Hermosa Beach, Calif. to work with a new coach, Frank Carroll, just five months before the 2014 Winter Games.
And, based on her winning performance in Friday’s short program at Skate Canada in St. John, New Brunswick, the change in her skating is equally striking.
She was back to being the skater whom everyone thought was a lock to earn one of the three women’s spots on the U.S. team at the upcoming Olympics after having finished second at nationals and sixth at worlds last year.
Or actually even better.
Carroll coached Evan Lysacek to the 2010 Olympic title and Michelle Kwan to four world titles and an Olympic silver medal after working with both for years.
What has he wrought in barely a month of working with Gold?
“He is trying to take all the voices and all the doubt out of my head,” Gold said. “Quite frankly, he thinks I work too hard to doubt myself at all.
“I overthink things. My mind is constantly whirling, whatever I’m doing.”
Friday, Gold nailed her opening triple lutz-triple toe combination and followed that with command of the other six short program elements. She also showed a substantial improvement in working with a challenging piece of music, Gershwin’s “Three Preludes,” even if some of her arm movements remain disconcertingly frenetic.
The result was 69.45 points, more than seven higher than her previous personal best. It put her atop a field where the first four finishers all skated very well.
“Yes!” Gold mouthed as she finished the 2-minute, 50-second program, fists clenched for emphasis.
Former world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia, 15, of Russia was second with 66.89, followed by Akiko Suzuki of Japan (65.76) and Christina Gao (62.82) of the United States going into Saturday’s free skate. Gold, Lipnitskaia and Gao all got full credit for their triple-triple combinations, although Gao’s was the easier triple toe-triple toe.
Gold thought being in her second season at the senior level helped her overcome nerves after unsatisfying practices in Canada.
“Frank and I found a little corner here to prepare for the short – he and I against the world,” Gold said. “I was just able to focus and re-center and perform like I trained.
“I don’t feel like a veteran yet but I definitely feel a little more experienced than last year.”
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