Gracie Gold wants to put turbulent season behind her at World Championships


Gracie Gold‘s discombobulated season took another confusing turn at her most recent competition.

“It felt like I was surfing,” she said.

Gold, the 2014 U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher at the Sochi Olympics, finished fourth as the most accomplished skater in the field at the Four Continents Championships in Seoul in February.

She hopes to perform better at the World Championships next week in Shanghai, where she is one of three Americans looking to win the first U.S. women’s medal at Worlds since 2006.

“If I were to turn on my music at any time of the day, I would not skate as poorly as I did at Four Continents,” Gold said Monday. “I was just so nervous, and it just didn’t feel like me out there.”

Gold, who trains in Southern California, said she’s consistently skated clean long programs in practice daily, maybe with one mistake, since returning from Four Continents one month ago.

“Most things I’ve really learned about myself and about training is always after a bad competition, after a disappointment,” she said.

Gold pointed to an improper mindset at Four Continents, where she singled at least one jump in both of her programs.

“Possibly, I put too much expectation on myself and crumbled under my own pressure,” she said. “We were just so focused on, at least I was, about winning the competition and winning and winning and winning that I kind of got lost in that and I forgot what the most important part is, which is about buckling down and just skating your program.”

The ups and, mostly, downs in the post-Olympic season have been plentiful. They started before the season, actually, as her prep was delayed due to a post-Olympic tour — her first extended period away from home. She also felt out of shape, switched skate blades and changed boot sizes.

“I’ve had a lot of trouble finding my rhythm,” she said. “I’ve kind of been all over the place this year. It hasn’t been my most consistent, by far.”

Gold managed to win her first Grand Prix Series title at NHK Trophy in November but then came home to find she had a stress fracture in her left foot.

“My first major injury,” she said.

Gold, with less than three weeks of jumping training after that injury, relinquished her U.S. title to Ashley Wagner in January.

Then in February, she had trouble sleeping in Seoul, was off in practice and nervous in warm-ups and was also affected by an hourlong bus ride from her hotel to the rink at Four Continents.

“I didn’t feel like I was in my own skates,” Gold said.

Gold called the defeat a blessing and counts on the “little glimmers of hope” she’s seen in her skating this season that prove she is a medal contender at Worlds.

The confidence is still there. Gold even said she and coach Frank Carroll have talked about working on a triple Axel or quadruple Salchow, though not adding it in competition any time soon.

Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who won the Grand Prix Final in December and European Championships in January, was recently seen in video landing a triple Axel. She’s the only elite active women’s skater performing the jump. It’s been a while since quads have been talked about in women’s competition.

“That’s something I’ve always been awe of,” Gold said of Tuktamysheva’s triple Axel. “I’m looking forward, hopefully in the next Olympic cycle, we’ll see even more triple Axels being tried and maybe even some quads by ladies. I think that it’s very doable.”

Polina Edmunds hopes reputation doesn’t impact World Championships

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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