Ice Network

Cold-blooded Gold stares adversity in the face

Skater doesn't let coach's bloody nose throw her off her game
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Gracie Gold's mental toughness was on full display Wednesday night in the ladies short. -Getty Images

Not even Frank Carroll's "big gusher," as Gracie Gold termed it, could distract the skater from the task at hand.

While Gold was warming up backstage before her short program, her coach mysteriously disappeared. She continued preparing and, still, there was no sign of the man.

Then, finally, Frank.

"He comes out with one of the worst nosebleeds I've ever seen," Gold said. "They had to replace [the tissues] too many times, they were asking if he should get it cauterized. I was like, 'No! No! Put tissues in it.'"

Gold was able to block out the unexpected distraction and lay down a solid performance of her program to Grieg's "Piano Concerto," posting a score of 68.63, good for fourth place heading into Thursday's free skate.

It was illustrative of the "new" Gracie, one who's almost unrecognizable from the person, and skater, she was just a few months ago. Another sign of the changes she's undergone? Her ability to tack a triple toe onto her opening triple Lutz, and land her double Axel when it looked like an iffy proposition in mid-air.

"At NHK, I had a similar flighty feeling [on my flip in the short], and I didn't really pull it off," Gold said. "To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost, but get out there and shoot the fear in the face is what I'm all about now."

That feeling of anxiety started to hit her around mid-day Wednesday, she said.

"I woke up from a nap and I thought, oh my God, I'm competing in the Olympic short program later," Gold said. "When I was laying out my stuff, I started to get nervous, but there was nothing I could do; I can't pause the event and wait until I feel better. I just knew what I had to do."

What she did was put herself in position for a medal here in Sochi. Not a great position, mind you, but she certainly has a puncher's chance, should one of the top three -- Yu-Na Kim, Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner -- falter.

"A 68 is not just respectable score -- it's a really good short score," Gold said confidently.

In fact, it seems like everything she says these days is with a sense of self-assuredness. The transformation is glaringly apparent in her interactions in the mixed zone, which can be an intimidating place for a skater.

Take this answer she gave, delivered deadpan, when she was asked if she was aware of how well Kim had skated in the group before her:

"I heard [the cheering for Kim]. I thought it was rain, and it wasn't -- it was clapping and pounding. She looked really solid in practice. Being an Olympic champion and winning almost every event she's ever done, she probably feels pretty good going into events."

It was not long ago that many believed Gold still had some growing up to do, that she might have met with too much success too quickly, and wasn't handling her newfound fame in the best way.

Those days are gone. A reborn Gracie has emerged, one who is entertaining and funny and, above all, poised in the face of adversity. It's incredibly refreshing to see.

And the best part is, she's skating better than she ever has. Her short had its minor flaws, but even with those, her program was one of the best of the night and has her right where she wants to be.

Don't believe her? Just ask her.

"I love my short, but the long program's my bread and butter," Gold said. "I'm all about the long program; I'm all about momentum. When you have seven jumps, it's a lot easier to get momentum than with just three."

Her momentum in the short was very nearly halted before it ever had a chance to get rolling, and lesser skaters may have let something like their coach getting a bloody nose minutes before they were to take the ice rattle them.

But not Gold. Not this Gracie. This Gracie doesn't let a "big gusher" get in the way of what she's trained so hard for.

When something like that happens, this Gracie directs her 75-year-old coach -- one who's been at the boards for five Olympic medalists, including 2010 champion Evan Lysacek -- where to go.

"I said, 'Fortunately, [my dress] is red … but stand over there.'"