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

2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Day 1
Getty Images

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Iga Swiatek wins third French Open title, fourth Grand Slam, but this final was not easy


Iga Swiatek won her third French Open title and her fourth Grand Slam overall, pushed to a third set in a major final for the first time.

Swiatek, a 22-year-old Pole, outlasted unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday at Roland Garros. Muchova tested Swiatek, the only singles player in the Open Era to win their first seven major final sets. She became the first player to take a set off Swiatek in the tournament.

Swiatek looked en route to another major final sweep, up 3-0 in the second set. She then committed 11 unforced errors (versus four winners) over the rest of the set as Muchova rallied back (with 10 winners versus 11 unforced errors).

Muchova then won the first eight points of the third set. Swiatek, under the most pressure of her career on the sport’s biggest stages, passed the test. The players exchanged breaks of serve, and Muchova had another break point for a chance to serve for the championship, but Swiatek fended her off.

“After so many ups and downs, I kind of stopped thinking about the score,” Swiatek said. “I wanted to use my intuition more because I knew that I can play a little bit better if I’m going to get a little bit more loosened up.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

No woman lower than the 14th seed has beaten both world Nos. 1 and 2 at a Grand Slam since the WTA rankings began in 1975. Muchova, ranked 43rd, nearly pulled it off.

“The feeling is a little bitter because I felt it was very close,” she said. “But overall, I mean, to call myself Grand Slam finalist, it’s amazing achievement.”

The French Open finishes Sunday with the men’s final. Novak Djokovic faces Casper Ruud, eyeing a 23rd major title to break his tie with Rafael Nadal for the men’s singles record. NBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock air live coverage at 9 a.m. ET.

Go back to the fall 2020 French Open. Swiatek, a 54th-ranked teen, won the tournament without dropping a set for her first tour-level title.

Since, she climbed to the top of the rankings (and has stayed there for 62 weeks running), tied the longest WTA win streak in 32 years (37 matches in a row in 2022) and won majors on clay and hard courts.

She beat challengers from different categories in major finals: a Slam champ (Sofia Kenin), a teen phenom (Coco Gauff), an emerged rival (Ons Jabeur) and now an unseeded (because of injuries)-but-dangerous veteran in Muchova. Swiatek is the youngest woman to reach four major titles since Serena Williams in 2002.

Yet this French Open began with talk of a Big Three in women’s tennis rather than singular dominance. Since last year’s French Open, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Russian-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina both won their first major and beat Swiatek multiple times.

Swiatek faced neither in Paris but still called it “a pretty stressful tournament,” noting a right thing injury that forced her to retire during her last match before the tournament.

Sabalenka was stunned by Muchova in Thursday’s semifinals, the erratic serving and nerves of her past reappearing. Rybakina had to withdraw earlier in the tournament due to illness.

Next up: the grass court season and Wimbledon, where Swiatek hasn’t made it past the fourth round in three tries. She did win the 2018 junior title at the All England Club. but Sabalenka and Rybakina have had more recent success there.

If Swiatek can lift the Venus Rosewater Dish, she will be an Australian Open shy of a career Grand Slam. Her chances of adding an Olympic gold medal to that collection are very high, given Roland Garros hosts tennis at the 2024 Paris Games.

“I’m not setting these crazy records or goals for myself,” she said. “I know that keeping it cool is the best way to do it for me.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Novak Djokovic into French Open final with records at stake after beating Carlos Alcaraz


Novak Djokovic heads into Sunday’s French Open final with all sorts of history at stake after eliminating a cramping Carlos Alcaraz in a showdown semifinal.

Djokovic faces Casper Ruud, eyeing a 23rd major title to break his tie with Rafael Nadal for the men’s singles record. NBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock air live coverage at 9 a.m. ET.

On Friday, Djokovic took out the top seed Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, but the match was even when Alcaraz began showing signs of right leg cramping. The 20-year-old Spaniard attributed it to the “tension” of the match, saying he was nervous for his first time facing Djokovic at a major.

“I have never felt something like I did today,” he said, adding that it was full-body cramps. “If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies.”

Alcaraz stopped play at 1-all in the third set and had trouble walking. He forfeited the next game, stipulated by the rules for receiving medical treatment for severe muscle cramping when not at a change of ends or end of a set.

Djokovic then won the next nine games. Alcaraz played with limited mobility and without the charismatic magic that’s charmed the tennis world.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

“First and foremost, I have to say tough luck for Carlos. I feel for him. I feel sorry,” Djokovic said to begin an on-court interview. “I told him at the net he knows how young he is. He’s got plenty of time ahead of him, so he’s going to win this tournament, I’m sure, many, many times.”

Djokovic was told of Alcaraz’s reasoning for the cramps.

“I have experienced that several times,” he said. “Early in my career I was struggling quite a bit physically. I can understand the emotions and circumstances that affect you mentally and emotionally.”

The semi was billed as perhaps the greatest inter-generational match in men’s tennis history, the first time that Alcaraz played a member of the Big Three at a major.

Their 16-year age gap was the largest to take place for men this deep in a major since the 1991 U.S. Open (Jim Courier d. Jimmy Connors) and the largest age gap for any major match between Slam champs since 2006 Wimbledon (Rafael Nadal d. Andre Agassi).

Unlike Friday, most of the previous torch-passing meetings took place when one man was not yet at his peak or the other was past his prime.

Typically, the younger player wins these types of duels. Djokovic, by prevailing over a foe 16 years younger this late in a major, broke the Open Era men’s age gap record of 14-plus years set by Roger Federer, who beat Hyeon Chung at the 2018 Australian Open.

Now, Djokovic heads to Sunday’s final as an overwhelming favorite against the Norwegian Ruud, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 winner over German Alexander Zverev in the later semifinal. Ruud was runner-up to Nadal at last year’s French Open and runner-up to Alcaraz at last year’s U.S. Open.

Djokovic can become the first man to win all four majors at least three times. He can break Nadal’s record as the oldest French Open singles champion.

“I’ve been very fortunate that most of the matches in tournaments I’ve played in the last few years, there is history on the line,” he said. “The motivation is very high, as you can imagine.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!