Gracie Gold’s first skate a difficult one in return to competition

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A nervous Gracie Gold struggled with her jumps Friday in her first competitive program since receiving treatment last year for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder.

The Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion fell on a triple flip and popped an Axel, tallying 37.51 points for last place of 10 skaters. Gold buried her head in her hands as the score was announced.

“We just had to start with something, even if it was trash,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “This is six months out of rock bottom, so we’ll just go from there.

“The goal was just to show up and try to be brave.”

Russian Olympic champion Alina Zagitova scored a world-leading 80.78 points, gapping countrywoman Sofia Samodurova by 13.38 going into Saturday’s free skate.

Gold, 23, last competed at the January 2017 U.S. Championships, where she placed sixth and split from coach Frank Carroll.

“I was trying to think why I was so nervous. You say it’s been a while,” she said, according to the AP, “but I’ve never gone into a big Grand Prix event where I was so, frankly, not trained.”

Gold announced Sept. 1, 2017, that she was seeking professional help “after recent struggles on and off the ice,” then detailed what she was seeking treatment for the following month. She watched last January’s U.S. Championships from the stands and, in the spring, began working on programs for this season under new coach Vincent Restencourt.

“I am not even close to 100 percent,” Gold said Thursday, according to OlympicChannel.com, “probably only like 30 or 40 percent of what I would like to over the next four years going into the next Olympics.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Earlier Friday, double Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu topped the men’s short with the world’s highest score this season.

Favored Russians took leads in pairs (Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov) and ice dance (Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin), moving one step closer to December’s Grand Prix Final.

In dance, U.S. junior champions Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko are in second going into Saturday’s rhythm dance, eyeing their first Grand Prix medal.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Gracie Gold wants to be new skater in comeback

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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