Gracie Gold forgives herself for worlds failure, aided by old coach

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Desperate, Gracie Gold phoned the one man she didn’t think would answer her calls.

He picked up, and now Gold feels ready to defend her U.S. title in Kansas City next week, following a tumultuous nine months.

It all started at the world championships in Boston last spring. By now you’ve read that Gold led after the short program, in position to end a 10-year U.S. medal drought, and failed in the free skate, falling to fourth place.

That stayed with Gold the entire offseason. As she toured later that spring with skaters who did earn medals. As she distanced herself from the sport in the summer. And as she struggled mightily through the fall Grand Prix series.

Then, at her most recent event in December, Gold had her worst performance in four years at a small competition, finishing sixth against a weak field in Zagreb, Croatia.

Her social media afterward read, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Anyone who has seen the video from that Golden Spin was like, there’s something wrong with Gracie,” said Gold, who reportedly dealt with upper-back pain in Zagreb. “I finally told my team that I felt like I needed Alex, as tough as that was to say.”

Alex Ouriashev, her former Chicago-area coach.

Ouriashev had guided Gold to success as a junior and in her first senior season in 2012-13. Gold suddenly left the coach in August 2013, less than six months before the Sochi Olympics, and joined the venerable Frank Carroll, who is still her primary coach.

The Gold-Ouriashev split was not clean, especially considering the timing. Gold said their relationship “was crumbling on both ends.”

So when Gold picked up the phone last month, with Carroll’s support, she was understandably hesitant.

“I didn’t feel like Alex would actually answer my calls,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how he felt about me, because three years is a long time, actually.”

Ouriashev did answer. He invited Gold to see him in Chicago to work on her jumps, with Japanese men’s star Shoma Uno already scheduled to be in town.

Gold said she cried upon seeing Ouriashev.

“It was like stepping back in time,” Gold said. “Time really does heal all wounds. … There was really no bad blood between us.”

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Gold spent two weeks working with Ouriashev after Christmas and returned to Los Angeles, where she trains with Carroll.

“Alex kind of raised me in a sense,” Gold said. “He kind of taught me all my triple [jumps], so he kind of knew how to work out all of the kinks.”

The jumps, which Gold couldn’t land all fall, quickly came back. Like flipping a switch.

“I needed to get out of my head, get out of my training space and switch things up because I was kind of in a funk,” Gold said. “Chicago did that for me. Alex did that for me.”

The goal at the U.S. Championships next week is to make the three-woman world championships team, if not win. With 2016 U.S. silver medalist Polina Edmunds out with a foot injury, making the top three in Kansas City is not a huge ask. Winning the title would require overtaking world silver medalist Ashley Wagner.

“I know that some people have written me off,” said Gold, whose best score in the fall from Skate America ranks her fourth in the U.S. this season, behind Wagner, Mariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu.

Gold was still asked repeatedly about her world championships failure, and her disastrous fall season, in a media call Thursday.

“I’ve kind of fallen back in love with the sport and my programs and most importantly myself,” she said. “I’m forgiving myself for failing.”

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"If you're going through hell, keep going." ~Winston Churchill

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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