Gracie Gold’s comeback yields its most fruitful success in nationals short program

2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Day 1
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It is simple, really, what Gracie Gold wanted out of her eighth and possibly final appearance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

“This nationals for me is the cherry on top of what I consider a pretty successful comeback attempt,” Gold said a day before the women’s singles event began with the short program Thursday in Nashville.

Truth be told, just coming back constituted a considerable success for Gold, given the multiple issues – eating disorders, depression, anxiety – she had dealt with for several years. She missed the 2018 and 2019 nationals and battled just to qualify each of the past three seasons.

At 26, Gold came to this one in a better place competitively than she had been in a long time. At her final qualifying event last November in Georgia, she showed flashes in her short program of the skater who had won national titles in 2014 and 2016 and finished fourth in the 2014 Olympics.

“I’ve had lots of good training over the past two or three months,” Gold said Wednesday. “I have been really proud of myself and my team and all the hard work that we’ve done, so my goal is to really show that and kind of show off a little bit like old times.

“The short program in Georgia was really nice and long overdue. I hope to have a similar outcome tomorrow.”

This one was even nicer – on the score sheet and in the way Gold reacted, a wide smile on her face for nearly the final minute of a 2-minute, 40-second program that ended with the crowd at Bridgestone Arena on its feet to applaud.

“It was really amazing, just a huge emotional moment on so many levels,” she said.

Gold’s score, 67.61, was her best for a short program since the one that put her first at the 2016 World Championships. It was 13 points better than her short program scores at the last two nationals, when she finished 13th and 12th overall.

“What a fighter,” said Mariah Bell, who won Thursday’s short program with 75.55 points. “She has continued to come back. She deserved that moment.”

Bell’s victory was her first in the 17 short programs or free skates she has done in her nine appearances at nationals. She, Karen Chen (74.55) and two-time champion Alysa Liu (71.41) put themselves in good position to claim the three U.S. women’s spots at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Two senior national debutantes, Isabeau Levito (71.42) and Lindsay Thorngren (71.00), were close behind in fourth and fifth.

Gold took sixth, putting herself in the final group for Friday night’s free skate. She did it with the first clean short program of her six nationals after 2014, including a solid if somewhat flawed triple-triple combination and a strong individual triple jump.

That too is a considerable success for Gold. Four years ago, she had been scared to try more than the easiest double jumps when she first put on skates after 45 days of in-patient treatment for eating disorders during what she sardonically called her “quarter-life crisis.”

Gold was asked Wednesday if she thought her comeback could take her to this point.

“I didn’t know where I would get to,” she said. “I know many people didn’t think I would get this far.

“It was quite the undertaking. It was rough for quite a while, but we made it.”

Thursday, she landed a triple lutz-triple toe combination the judges dinged for an incomplete rotation on the second jump. Doing a triple-triple in the short was one of her goals for this event.

Gold’s performance was so exhilarating that the idea of her continuing through another Olympic cycle came into the conversation when she spoke to the media after finishing. She did not dismiss it out of hand.

“My mom always said I have a case of the `mores,’ that I wanted one more of everything,” Gold said. “(But) I’ve stopped making plans. Nothing has gone to plan, and the last four years of my life have been crazy in both really good and really bad ways.”

Gold was determined that if this wound up being her final year in competitive skating, she would go out doing a short program to “East of Eden” while wearing a green dress. Every time she had previously brought up the possibility of using that music, someone would remind her that it had been used in one of Michelle Kwan’s signature programs.

“You better be sure,” they would tell her about choosing music so closely identified with one of the sport’s greatest champions.

Her answer was the way she skated it Thursday, sure on her feet, sure of herself.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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