Gracie Gold overcomes literally and figuratively running out of gas

Gracie Gold
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Gracie Gold has told a lot of revelatory personal anecdotes over the years. (In the latest, she explained the reason for getting a tattoo of a moth.) Gold has been so open, in fact, that she cannot even remember the one that now sounds like an allegory for her larger story.

“I’m gonna have to text Carly,” she said of her twin sister, “Like, ‘do you remember that time in Detroit…’”

This is the story Gold told me in August 2017, before announcing her break from figure skating for treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder a few weeks later. I brought it up to her after her return to the U.S. Championships this past weekend in Greensboro, N.C., wondering if it was a metaphor for her life.

She and Carly were coming home from a friend’s birthday party in the Detroit area, with the two-time national champion behind the wheel of a VW Tiguan. They dressed up, with Gracie wearing a “sensible-ish heel” and Carly in heels that were “not sensible.”

It was around 1 a.m., and they were on their way home, and both were tired and cranky. They had been driving about 45 minutes, with 10 minutes remaining to their destination.

They drove along… Got to an exit ramp… Suddenly, with no warning, the car stopped running.

Gold managed to navigate to the side of the road and realized she had run out of gas.

Carly was not amused.

“This wasn’t like we were sputtering. This was: the car no longer worked,” Gold said.

The way Gold described the car would sound familiar to those who have heard her talk about her mental health crisis.

There’s more to the story, though. Gold somehow had the presence of mind to get herself out of the situation. She told Carly to hold the wheel – after a debate about who’d be getting out of the car – and Gracie threw the SUV into neutral.

Gold remembered “being so mad at myself and finding this weird strength and anger to push this car. A gas station was close enough that it seemed possible.”

In her heels, Gold pushed the vehicle down the otherwise-barren exit ramp to a large “M” glowing in the distance.

“At the time, it felt like forever; I don’t even know if I could accurately gauge [the distance],” she said.

Pushing it was her best option, she figured, without any ride-sharing services nearby. She thought at the time a roadside assistance service might laugh at them, stranded so near a gas station. Gold had only lived in Michigan for about a month which left no friendly neighbors to call in a pinch.

After the initial push, she couldn’t believe how easily she got her car to roll.

“It was a straight shot, slightly downhill. I was like, ‘OK, this is possible,’” she said. “An uphill battle – or in this case, a neutral-to-downhill battle.”

The gas station, ironically, was part of a chain called “Marathon.”

Gold’s recovery has been more marathon than sprint. The 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist took the long road to nationals this season. She qualified through sectional and regional competitions instead of automatically qualifying, as she had in previous years. It was her first U.S. Championships since 2017.

And she would use a car metaphor during her televised interview with NBC’s Andrea Joyce following the short program.

“You can’t get anywhere ‘til you start the car, right?” she said. “So, we just keep going.”

After the free skate, where she received a standing ovation and finished 12th out of 18 skaters, she put herself back in the driver’s seat. She said she intends to move forward as a competitive skater for at least another season.

“We’ve started the car, so to speak,” Gold said, “and now we’re shifting from first to second [gear], second to third, all the way up to sixth.”

With her mental and physical tanks refilled, Gold wants to see how fast she can go, and how far it will take her.

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U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Full Results | Worlds roster | 10 Takeaways

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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