When Gracie Gold was in treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder last year, she received a message from two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott.
“If you ever want to come back to skating, I want to do an exhibition piece for you as a gift,” Abbott, who has taken up choreography in retirement, told his friend. Gold said it was a sweet offer and thanked him.
“At that point I don’t think that she had thought about coming back at all,” Abbott said last week.
Several months later, Gold had thought it over. She contacted Abbott in the spring.
“I’m going to make a go at this. Would you be willing to do my programs?” Abbott recalled Gold telling him. “I was shocked,” Abbott continued, “but also, at the same time, I was not.”
Gold, a two-time U.S. champ who finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics, competes this week for the first time since the January 2017 U.S. Championships. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of Rostelecom Cup from Moscow.
|Friday||6 a.m.||Men’s Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|8 a.m.||Rhythm Dance||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|10:30 a.m.||Pairs’ Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|12 p.m.||Women’s Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|Saturday||5:30 a.m.||Men’s Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|7:30 a.m.||Free Dance||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|9:30 a.m.||Pairs’ Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|11:30 a.m.||Women’s Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|Sunday||12 p.m.||Highlights||NBC | STREAM LINK|
Gold, who detailed her last two years in a video published a month ago, is refraining from more interviews until after she skates. Abbott choreographed both her short and long programs, making a few trips to her Pennsylvania training base in the last six months. Gold is coached by former French skater Vincent Restencourt.
“She told me that she wanted to be a new skater and a new Gracie,” Abbott said. “She said that she always admired the artistry that I had and that she really wanted to bring something new to her skating.”
Abbott said her program music choices — “I Put a Spell On You” and “She Used to Be Mine,” the latter from the Broadway musical “Waitress” — reflect the new Gold. The former is “a little more mature and a little more sexy and playful than anything she’s done in the past.” The latter speaks to how she got from there to here in the last two years.
“At one point, she was on top of the world and had everything at her feet,” Abbott said. (Gold has said she spiraled psychologically after squandering a short-program lead at the 2016 Worlds and missing the podium altogether.) “Then she had some really big struggles and had to really step back from the life that she knew. Now she’s having to rebuild herself. It’s kind of looking back at who she was and who she used to be and now where she is and who she wants to become.”
Gold made it clear to Abbott whom she wanted to become.
“She was like, ‘I always was viewed as a jumper and not a skater. I always wanted to be an artist, but everyone told me stick to what you’re best at,'” Abbott said. “Working with her, she is an artist. She is sensitive. She understands the music. She gets it.”
Abbott visited Gold once this fall for choreography touch-ups and will not be in Moscow with her and Restencourt. Rather, he will be performing in 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton‘s show in Nashville on Sunday.
Abbott doesn’t know how Gold is handling the comeback nerves or what to expect of her jumps.
“This isn’t like a big massive coming-out party for her,” he said. “This is really just the first step to get her feet back under her, get her going again because the plan isn’t about this competition. The plan isn’t about this season. The plan is really about building for her future and the next four years.”
The field is led by Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, fellow Russian Sofia Samodurova and Japanese Yuna Shiraiwa, all 16-year-olds with a chance to make December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.
This is Gold’s lone competition until the new year. Many will watch and wonder how she stacks up among Americans heading into January’s national championships. (Two U.S. women are ranked in the top 30 in the world this season, with many big names sitting out the fall.)
“From where her life was, I think it takes some major balls to even put herself back into this situation,” said Abbott, who noted that when he first visited Gold in the spring, she had her double jumps back. “For where she came from, she’s made huge strides. It’s really been impressive to watch her growth.”
In the men’s field, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is a heavy favorite given the absence of his top rivals, Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno. Canadian Keegan Messing and Russian Mikhail Kolyada are also in the mix to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
In pairs, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are the clear favorites on home ice, but Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc carry the intrigue.
They have a great chance at the Grand Prix Final if they can finish second, after taking third at Skate America four weeks ago. Cain and LeDuc rank fourth in the Rostelecom field by best scores this season but are only 4.21 points behind the second-ranked pair.
Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin headline the ice dance. They’re ranked second in the world behind Americans Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, who clinched their Grand Prix Final spot three weeks ago.
As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.
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