Ice Network

Pot-au-feu: Gold dealing with crisis of confidence

Orser reveals strategy with Fernández; Péchalat has daughter in tow
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The way the short program played out Friday was a worst-case scenario for Gracie Gold. -Getty Images

"Look at this photo!" someone said near the kiss and cry to the German clan, showing his smart phone. It was a great photo, indeed, and you may find it circulating on social media. It shows Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot mirroring one another during a figure lift. (We believe he's referencing this photo.) The symmetry is stunning, and you can look at the picture upward and downward the same way, just like you would a playing card.

The cards the German team plans to play are rather high level, actually: They did a throw triple axel in their short and plan a throw quad for their free program.

Blues…which blues?

The venue where the event is being held is called AccorHotels Arena, so it's no surprise that the corridors in the building look like those in a hotel. Going from the press room to the stands (which you usually run through), you can hear that music being broadcast in the corridors, day and night. It's a jazzy blues most of the time. But please, skaters, don't use this one: There is no way you would be able to perform a Midnight Blues to such music!

Google car in Paris?

The press entrance to the arena is usually locked by a heavy gate. You need to be…a journalist to figure that you need to pick up the gate yourself to open it -- especially when it's the first thing you need to do in the morning, at a time when you're not yet fully awake, after a short night. Saturday morning, there was a car behind the gate, and the engine was on. You are polite, so you say hello to the driver until you realize…it's a dog! You see all kinds of weird things in skating.

Come on, Gracie! Everybody loves you!

Gracie Gold had a nightmarish experience in the short program Friday night. Just as she did a year ago in Bordeaux, she skated to a beautiful tango, but the result was completely different.

"Gracie had a rough year," her coach Frank Carroll explained. "She needs to regain confidence." And yet she qualified for the Grand Prix Final last year, and she won the short program at worlds in Boston. What is most important in a career: what you achieve or what you miss? "That's the point," Carroll continued: "All of us from the outside will say, 'Go on, Gracie. You're one of the finest skaters in the world. No one doubts that you could have been the world champion. You are a beautiful girl.' But that's not what is in her head. No one here will push her down; only she does. She has to believe in herself." Today may be the first day of the rest of your life, Gracie. All hearts out!

Emergency dance

When the second group of ice dance practice was over Saturday morning, the teams left the rink one by one in their colorful and well-matched outfits. A curious team followed them and passed the big curtain to the rink backstage. Both team members were wearing flashy orange vests and dark pants. They were not ice dancers, however, but medical volunteers. Would you believe it? They made a dance step and went away, laughing. This is a good time for a tribute to all the skating volunteers worldwide. Hats off! You do a most important job, and not much would be possible in this sport without you!

A man's hand

"He makes me quieter," Russia's Elena Ilinykh told icenetwork Friday night, in the post-short dance press conference, talking of her partner, Ruslan Zhiganshin. "I really needed this in my life. It's important to have a man's hand," she continued candidly. "That is the best quote of the day!" Madison Hubbell said, laughing. "It's important to have a man's hand." Don't you think she's right?

Welcome to the rink!

A skating Grand Prix also provides a good opportunity for former competitors to join the crowd. Nathalie Péchalat, who with Fabian Bourzat won this event twice, graced the Grand Prix with her presence. "I'm commentating for Eurosport," she explained, "but we're commentating from a studio. It's almost impossible to see the speed of skaters on a monitor, so I'm here to see how they look and get the ambiance!" On Saturday morning, Péchalat came to the arena again and brought both her mom and 1-year-old baby, Jeanne, to watch. (Let's say, more objectively, that grandma was watching Jeanne while Péchalat was watching the skaters practice.) "I won't push her too much in the rinks," Péchalat clarified. "I wouldn't like to start over for another 25 years!" Jeanne, anyhow, got her first accreditation, a plastic badge she was avidly gumming while running all over the stands. Grandma chased her around: Jeanne is a chaperone for the first time in her life!

A clue into Orser's strategy, at last!

Finally, the time has come to disclose what Brian Orser alluded to in the interview he gave icenetwork Thursday. At that time, it was secret, but after Friday's short program, it was not anymore. Orser noticed that Javier Fernández didn't like starting first in a group, so he asked him to end his warmup early enough to go backstage again. "I made a small choreographic exercise and then I went back to the ice," Fernández explained. Did it work? "Halfway!" Orser mused afterward. "There was a fall on the quad salchow, but the rest was perfect and Javi got all his levels!" A coach needs so much strategy.