Gracie Gold looks to a fresh start going into next week’s Skate America, with the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics already on her mind.
“I have another four years left in me, if not more,” Gold said in a teleconference Tuesday. “It’s a fresh start on my skating career for both [the] Grand Prix [season] and leading into Nationals [the U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in January]. I feel good about the possibilities.”
Gold – who last season earned her first U.S. Championship, an Olympic team event bronze medal, a fourth-place individual finish in Sochi and fifth at the World Championships – took third in her international season debut at Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany two weeks ago.
She was the most decorated skater in the Nebelhorn field but said she felt nervous and wasn’t at her best, leading to a fall in the short program and popping a jump in her free skate.
At Nebelhorn, Gold debuted a long program that included something new for this season – vocal music with lyrics – even though in April she said she’d let other skaters play around with skating to lyrics before trying her own.
“I absolutely did not intend to use lyrics this year,” Gold said. “But [my team] had cut this piece of music for me, and they had fallen in love with it. They played it for me, and I was still unsure, even when I got on the ice to choreograph. We had a couple of backup ideas. But as soon as I started moving to it, I started to fall in love with it.”
But the most surprising of all?
“It really shocked me that [Coach] Frank [Carroll] loved it, because I thought that he wouldn’t be into lyrics at all,” Gold said of her coach, whom she calls “legendary” and has been part of the sport since the 1950s.
Not everyone will share Carroll and Gold’s disposition toward her medley from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. The 19-year-old knows that.
“Competing is definitely rooted in tradition, but I like [lyrics],” Gold said. “I don’t think of it as a crutch. I actually think it can help enhance the program. But I know that traditionalists will never quite accept lyrics the way they like their classical music.”
Gold also has added stability this season. She left her Illinois base in August 2013 and moved to the Golden State to work with Carroll one month later. “A California convert,” Gold said she’s looking at potential colleges — Loyola Marymount, UCLA and USC.
She’ll go back to her native Illinois next week for the first of her two Grand Prix season assignments at Skate America, where she hopes to be more confident than in Germany two weeks ago.
“Not every competition is the Olympic Games,” Gold said. “I just need to relax and have a little more fun with competing.”
A lot of the points Gold missed at Nebelhorn were lost from technical scoring. The goal for Skate America is to get some back through her jumps.
“Frank and I are really working on the consistency of the triple Lutz-triple toe,” she said. “So even if the triple Lutz is a little off, that cat-like ability to land on your feet and snag a triple toe.”
And of course, with Yuna Kim and Mao Asada – leaders the past two Olympic cycles – out of the picture this season, Gold has a clear path to move up. She has her eye on competition from Russia and Japan.
Gold is the only woman in the Skate America field who finished in the top eight at the Olympics or the World Championships one month later.
But she will not be an overwhelming favorite, given the presence of two-time reigning World Junior champion Elena Radionova, who was too young for Sochi but finished second at last year’s NHK Trophy event in Japan, two spots ahead of Gold.
“It’s a different field [overall this season], but I think that I’m ready for it,” Gold said. “I can be in the top. There will be no more than three Russians that I have to face per competition, so not all of them at one time.”