‘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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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement