‘Nervous’ Gracie Gold stumbles in short program, but rebuilds herself to get this far

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Two-time national champion and 2014 Olympian Gracie Gold skated at her first national championships in three years in Greensboro on Thursday.

Her short program set to Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You” garnered 54.51 points and left her in 13th place. Gold doubled her planned triple-triple, executing a two-footed triple Lutz, double toe combination and popping a planned triple loop.

The women’s free skate is Friday, with 2018 national champion Bradie Tennell leading the field at 78.96 points.

After the short program, Gold told media, “I guess you could say that one might be nervous for this event.”

She put her progress at a nine out of 10 compared to where she had come from earlier this season. She rated her short program a three of 10.

She plans to “go to sleep, practice, nap, practice again” before Friday’s free skate.

“For me, short and long are two separate entities. We’ve seen that. Someone can botch a short and nail a long. Someone can have a Worlds – one might say a world’s best short program – and botch the long” she said, hinting at her 2016 Worlds-leading short program, followed by a disappointing free skate that left her fourth overall.

But she wanted to make one thing clear, speaking to NBC Olympics Research prior to competing:

“This isn’t a recreational comeback,” she stated.

“I mean first off, just being [at nationals] is already a pretty big W for me, because the 2018-19 season is pretty much non-existent for me… I want it to be clear that I’ve been training hard… I wanna look like I belong there, like I didn’t qualify because of my name, I qualified because I earned it. I earned a place at nationals to be a competitive athlete.”

One could say Gold took the long way around to qualify for nationals this year. Skaters with international assignments automatically get a berth to the U.S.’ top event. Gold, though, had to place high enough at Regionals and the subsequent Sectionals to qualify for nationals. She was third at regionals and third at sectionals to stamp her ticket to Greensboro.

Following her most recent national championships (sixth in 2017), Gold had a well-publicized split from her coach and sought treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. She coached briefly in Arizona before settling in Philadelphia. Her only competition in the 2018-19 season was a November Grand Prix event, where she pulled out after the short program. She called that experience “an alternate reality,” adding she’s “not even the same person.”

After her “exquisite flameout” – Gold admitted to borrowing the phrase from a wordsmith friend – she said rebuilding her life following treatment had its own silver lining.

“The positive is I got to rebuild everything from scratch,” she said. “While some things were fine and didn’t need to be rebuilt, when I put myself back together, I got to be whoever I wanted.”

She draws much of who she is today from the strength of her mother, Denise.

“Sometimes our relationship has been tumultuous because we’re the same person in so many ways; we’re almost too similar sometimes,” Gold said of her mother’s fortitude, which she absorbed. “I do go to sleep at night knowing, that above all else I am my mother’s daughter, and we will keep marching forward.”

Denise watched Gold’s short program from the audience. She said she felt “high anxiety, tremendous pride, and respect,” watching the performance. “Crowd’s support made me tearful,” she added in a text message.

Gold’s twin sister Carly, also a former national-level figure skater, tweeted her pride as well after the performance.

Philip Hersh and Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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