The U.S.’ top men’s and women’s figure skaters from the Sochi Olympics kick off their seasons at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, beginning Thursday.
Gracie Gold, fourth in Sochi and fifth at March’s World Championships, leads the women in Oberstdorf. Gold, 19, embarks on a season where she hopes to become the first U.S. woman to win a World Championships medal since 2006, the longest drought in recent history.
Gold’s bigger competitions will come later this season — Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Ill., in October; NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, in November; potentially the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December; the U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in January and, potentially, the World Championships in Shanghai in March.
All three of the 2014 U.S. Olympic women’s skaters are competing this season — Gold, Ashley Wagner (seventh in Sochi) and Polina Edmunds (ninth in Sochi).
Only two other women who finished in the top nine in Sochi are competing this season — Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and fifth-place Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia.
Gold’s Sochi teammate, Jason Brown, faces tougher international threats in his season debut in Oberstdorf. It will be his first international competition since the Sochi Olympics.
Brown, who finished ninth in Sochi, has worked on quadruple jump but is not ready to add it to a competition program just yet.
“It’s starting to feel more comfortable and confident, but it’s just not landed the way we want it to then put it in the program,” he told USA Today, which reported Brown will modify his trademark ponytail and wear his hair partly down for his free skate for the first time since 2005.
He was second in Oberstdorf last year, a distant 26.62 points behind Nobunari Oda, who failed to make Japan’s Olympic team.
Brown’s biggest competition at the event this year includes Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten and Czech Michal Brezina, who was one spot behind Brown in Sochi.
Brown, like Gold, is scheduled to make his Grand Prix season debut at Skate America next month.
Brown’s prospects for making it to the 2015 World Championships were boosted by the performances of countrymen Jeremy Abbott and Max Aaron at last season’s Worlds in Japan. There, they earned three U.S. men’s spots for the 2015 Worlds. The U.S. had two men’s spots at Worlds in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
A U.S. man has not won a World Championships medal since Evan Lysacek in 2009. The drought, like with the women, is the longest in recent history. Lysacek has not competed since the 2010 Olympics and recently said his career is coming to an end.
Correction: An earlier version of this article reported Vancouver Olympian Mirai Nagasu was competing in Oberstdorf. She was listed as a potential substitute but won’t skate.