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Boston brewings: Gold defies Carroll's wishes

Short program leader does full run-through after coach tells her to rest
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Gracie Gold said she "felt kind of daring" in going against coach Frank Carroll's advice at practice Friday. -Getty Images

A day after her world-beating short program inside TD Garden, Gracie Gold had a less-than-graceful practice session at Steriti Memorial Rink.

Thinking she was slated to go fifth in the practice group, Gold milled about at the boards as the session began, chatting with coach Frank Carroll and choreographer Scott Brown. She had only done a few warmup laps when her name was called -- first of the group -- to run through her free skate.

Instead of marking her program or choosing parts of it to focus on, Gold went full-bore, doing an entire run-through, which included a fall on the back end of her triple lutz-triple toe combination and another on a triple lutz.

"I just decided to wing it…against coach's advisement," she told reporters. "It's rare when Frank tells a skater to take a rest day and skip the run-through, and they ignore his advice. Usually, it's the other way around. I did the whole thing and wasn't tired. Frank told me, 'Good for you.'

"It felt kind of daring. I just decided to do a triple lutz instead of a walk-through," she continued, explaining how she launched into a full-blown program. "I just run through the program as a whole so much that I wouldn't know how to leave something out. It would feel broken. So I just wung (sic) it.

"I didn't know I was going to be the first skater in this practice. I don't know where my head was at. I guess it was in the clouds. When I heard, 'Our first skater is Gracie Gold,' I thought, 'Weird, I thought I drew fifth.' I thought I had all this time."

Gold, for her part, is doing her best to keep her head in the clouds when it comes to the pressure that she now faces as the short program winner.

"It has me with some good momentum going into the long, but there's not a lot of meaning behind it. I feel uncomfortable saying 'possible world champion,'" she said. "It's true, the expression: 'You can lose with the short, but you can't win with it.' That's how I'm operating."

Gold hopes to emulate the mental approach she had in the short: Don't think, just skate.

"Sometimes I try to be so controlled that I suffocate my own skating," she said. "I just need to be fluid with it and trust that everything is OK. I've done all the training and preparation...I need to let it breathe. Sometimes I try to make the magic moment and make it perfect, but you have to let it be."

On the same practice ice, Ashley Wagner was also on a patch of clouds, but one that she chose to be on. As her name was called, Wagner skated by the music desk and whirled her fingers in motion as if to say, "Start it up!"

As her Moulin Rouge! free skate music played, Wagner skated lap after lap around the practice rink, a small water bottle in each hand. She didn't stop once and didn't attempt any jumps, spins or step sequences. Reporter Jackie Wong noted: "She must have just skated five miles."

It's a training method used often by coach Rafael Arutunian, but Wagner said it was the first time she remembered using it at a competition.

"Usually, I carry hockey pucks at home," Wagner laughed. "The whole point of that is to get the blood flowing and Raf's method of wearing myself out, then training my jumps. It's simulating how I would feel in the second half of my program."

Wagner confirmed that Adam Rippon goes through the same process as well.

"Raf is a fair coach. We both have the same punishment. If you want buns of steel, that's how you get them," Wagner said. "It's nice to have a plan from Raf and have him so involved. I believe in what he's doing, and we're building up to tomorrow."

Gold and Wagner sit first and fourth, respectively, with Russians Anna Pogorilaya and Evgenia Medvedeva between them, separated by just four points. Wagner tweeted her glee of being in contention for a medal Thursday night.

"It's the perfect spot for me to be," she said Friday. "I think I'm in a great spot leading into tomorrow. I have to push through to the very end."

Wagner will skate last -- 24th of 24 skaters -- in the free, right after Gold, who skates 23rd.

"Skating last is never something I would volunteer for, but at the same time, it's perfect for me in this case," Wagner said. "Everything will have already happened, so it's just up to me to close the event."

Gold and Wagner are looking to snap the United States' much-publicized, decade-long ladies medal drought at worlds; Kimmie Meissner's gold and Sasha Cohen's bronze in 2006 mark the last time an American woman was in the top three at this event.

"It would be huge, especially with worlds in the U.S. this year," Meissner told icenetwork in a phone interview. "It would bring a lot more attention to the sport that has fallen away. Gracie and Ashley have been around for a bit. I think people feel like they know the two of them."

Meissner said it's impossible to pick which spot she'd rather be in: First or fourth.

"I've been in both positions before. It's weird, I always felt like Ashley does well in this spot. It's nice to be the underdog. Being in first, it's your title to lose. ... But (also) in first, you've lined up what you need to do. It never really matters, does it? Here, second to fourth place are all almost at the same score. It's going to be pretty crazy."

Notes:

-- Pogorilaya went down -- hard -- on one of her triple loops. She appeared (as she always does) to be OK.

-- No Medvedeva in the final group practice session. (Another session was scheduled for later in the afternoon.)

-- Arutunian didn't bother to come down to the boards during Wagner's practice. The skater did do several jumps -- sans water bottles -- following her laps and laps (and laps!).

-- Yes, Wagner got to drink the contents of said water bottles once she was done with practice.

-- After doing 10 minutes of media (a fair amount for a practice session), Gold stayed for another 10 minutes with a group of about 20 fans who greeted her outside the practice rink front door, taking selfies and chatting.

-- "She's her own worst critic," Denise Gold, Gracie's mom, told icenetwork. "To get through that short program against those odds... You know, stories of doubt play in everyone's ears. The best of the best can falter. I'm really so proud of her. She's hard-wired a certain way. She's driven."