Gracie Gold calls audible, adds lyrics for post-Olympic season

Gracie Gold
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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.”

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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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