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.”
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.”Follow @nzaccardi