Ice Network

Gold looks forward to less pressure-packed season

Transplanted Midwesterner reveling in fun and sun of Southern California
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Attending the premiere of the movie 'Divergent' is just one the perks that comes with being an Olympic medalist living in Southern California. -Getty Images

Gracie Gold is welcoming what she hopes will be "an easy, breezy summer."

Following the intensity that comes from an Olympic season -- a season that saw Gold have plenty of success but was not without its share of stress and tears -- there is plenty of reason for her to enjoy a bit of serenity these days.

"I am getting back into the baby steps of training before Champs Camp in August," Gold said. "This year, after everything that happened last year, I am hoping is a little more calm. The stakes were very high in 2014...very high."

No doubt.

Not only was Gold preparing for the Winter Games in Sochi, but she made a coaching change, a cross-country move and scrapped one of her programs.

She began the 2013-14 campaign in Illinois, spending a lot of time training in Detroit as well. She then made the decision to work with coach Frank Carroll in Southern California, uprooting herself, along with her mom, Denise, and her twin sister, Carly. Then, after her second Grand Prix event of the season, she and Carroll scrapped her short program. (Carroll said her old music sounded like "cats fighting.")

Gold took a lot of risks; her mother said there were many nights where the stress level was so high that there were dinner-table tears. But it all paid off in January, when Gold won her first U.S. title at the senior level and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

She followed up her trip to Sochi, where she finished fourth, by adding a fifth-place showing at the world championships. Then, she headed out with Stars on Ice. Being on tour was somewhat difficult because it separated her from her family. (Carly and Denise attended a handful of shows, and Gracie's father, Carl, went to a couple in the Midwest.) But she did enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being on tour, and she leaned a lot on Kim Navarro, whom she described as "kind of the mother hen" for the skaters.

"You go straight from the Olympics and worlds and then to Stars and just keep pumping it out," Gold said. "It's so different from competitive skating; you're with people of all different age groups and see people from all over the nation, and it's a lot of fun."

One of her tour programs was to the mantra from the Disney animated movie hit Frozen, "Let It Go."

"It was such a fun number, especially at the beginning of the tour," said Gold, who has the movie on her laptop. "It was amazing when the lights would come on and my dress would light up and you'd see these little girls in the on-ice seats singing along."

One perk of being on tour was being able to sightsee a bit. An avid cook and farmers' market shopper, Gold said perusing Portland, Ore., one free morning was a highlight.

Checking out various cuisines is a perk Gold has enjoyed when traveling for skating. When she's in Japan later this month for The Ice tour, she's making it a point to visit famous restaurants and meet chefs. While in Sochi, she enjoyed blinis, which are traditional Russian pancakes. At home, Gold carefully crafts gluten-free recipes and enjoys baking. One person she likes talking to is Brian Boitano, who not only shares her passion for skating but has appeared on the Food Network.

"It's always fun swapping recipes with Brian," Gold said. "And you can tell how much he really enjoys cooking and the show."

With all of the travel she has had this year, Gold also enjoys spending time in her new home in California. Being in Los Angeles, she has taken advantage of the kinds of opportunities that are only available to those in the motion picture capital -- like dropping by the Divergent movie premiere and attending a Hollywood A-list party.

"I went to the Motion Picture & Television (Fund) party the night before the Oscars," said Gold, who received an invite from none other than mega studio exec Jeffrey Katzenberg. "I got to meet a lot of stars. Amy Adams was there, and it was exciting because she was telling me that she watched me during the Olympics."

She has been back in the rink preparing for the 2014-15 season, but her touring days are not done yet. Gold will spend the Fourth of July holiday in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she will perform in the resort's ice show (along with her pal, Jason Brown, and Nathan Chen). Then it's off to Japan for a couple of weeks to perform in The Ice along with reigning world champion Mao Asada, Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

She could even sneak in a high school degree before the competitive season starts. Gold said she has one math class remaining and hopes to complete the course work in August.

Then all the focus is on the ice again.

It is not an Olympic year, but this season marks the beginning of the road to the 2018 Winter Games, which will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Having been to Sochi, Gold said she is that much more motivated to make a second trip to the Olympics.

Carroll said this year might not be as stressful as the last, but when Gold is in practice, one thing is certain: "When we are in practice, we are working," the venerable coach said.

Gold, who last week was assigned to Skate America and the NHK Trophy for her Grand Prix competitions, said she plans on retaining the short program she used at the end of last season, a piano concerto by Edvard Grieg. She will be in Toronto in August to work some more with choreographer Lori Nichol on her new free skate.

"We decided to keep the short program this year and embellish it a bit," Gold said. "I used it at the big competitions -- nationals, worlds and Olympics -- and could have retired it, but I really loved it, and I know I can do more with the program. I think it will make this year a little easier for me, to have a good base with that program, and will allow me to focus on the long.

"And I'm excited to work with Lori again. She was just wonderful to work with."

The free skate is, as Carroll put it, "a work in progress," and music and choreography is not entirely set. But the plan is to have two triple-triple combinations in that program.

Gold could be a winner before the Grand Prix season even begins. She is a nominee for the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports award for "Best Female Athlete." Her competitors are Olympic champion gymnast Gabby Douglas, WNBA's Candace Parker, NASCAR's Danica Patrick, tennis champion Serena Williams, soccer gold medalist goalkeeper Hope Solo and Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn. (You can vote here: The awards show is July 17, while Gold is touring in Japan, but she will be following the results closely from afar.

"I'm in such huge company," Gold said of her fellow nominees. "It's only the second year for the sports award, and I wasn't expecting it. It's very stiff competition. So if I were to win, it would be a huge honor."

One of the many she has enjoyed in what has been quite a year for Gracie Gold.