Ice Network

Errors haunt Gold once again at Golden Spin

American falters in Croatia, finishes sixth; Italy's Kostner earns top prize
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Gracie Gold continued to deal with the mishaps that have haunted her for most of the year, with the latest disappointment coming in Croatia. -Stacy Revere - ISU/Getty Images

On Thursday at the Golden Spin Challenger Series, after yet another error-laden short program in what has been a confounding season for Gracie Gold, the two-time and reigning U.S. champion shared a quote from Winston Churchill on her social media channels.

"If you're going through hell, keep going," it read.

Gold, indeed, has been going through her own version of the fiery underworld this fall but kept churning away Friday at the event in Zagreb, Croatia, which is some 600 miles away from the Grand Prix Final -- where the American competed a year ago as one of the six best women in the world.

But a sixth-place finish at Golden Spin, while being an outright disappointment for Gold, serves as another motivator for what she is setting up as "an amazing comeback."

"I'm just getting all the bad stuff out," she told icenetwork in a phone interview from Zagreb. "And there's been a lot of bad. I want to finish the season on fire. I'm getting out that bad juju. I'm due for some really amazing skating."

While Gold plots her version of a comeback, 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2012 world champion Carolina Kostner began her own return to figure skating. The Italian is back on competitive ice for the first time since the 2014 World Championships, after serving a one-year ban for having lied to doping officials in 2012 for then-boyfriend and Olympic race walker, Alex Schwazer.

Kostner was graceful and aggressive in her short program, hitting a triple toe-triple toe combination out of the gates to score a 69.95 and lead a field that included Gold, former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and 2012 world silver medalist Alena Leonova, among others.

Kostner did not attempt a triple-triple Friday but skated soundly enough (and stayed upright) to a haunting version of "Nisi Dominus - Cum Dederit" in her free skate to hold on to first place.

Kostner won the event with a score of 196.23, followed by Tuktamisheva's total of 192.03. Leonova landed third with 191.39 points, and American Amber Glenn came in fourth with 183.68. Gold's sixth-place finish was earned with a total score of 159.03.

The total is Gold's lowest since Skate Canada in 2012, her first-ever Grand Prix event, where she finished in seventh place.

"Neither of the programs here were ideal or the level or the quality that I wanted," Gold said matter-of-factly. "I'm just trying to work through some of my issues this season. I want to come out at nationals and be the best that I can be."

She added: "I really am setting the stage for an amazing comeback. I want to change the headlines."

Gold said she had skated a clean run-through of both her short program and free skate back home Monday before leaving for Croatia. But after she arrived in Zagreb, she said she experienced an upper-back pain that she hadn't dealt with before, a discomfort that required attention from physical therapists and doctors.

She was able to skate "pain free," she said, but her practice time on the ice was severely inhibited because of the upper-back issue.

"Things went a little haywire here," she said. "Having 12 acupuncture needles in my back didn't really help (the overall result)."

As she did in the fall of 2012, Gold said she is working with a sports psychologist as she tries to fight back to the place she was at the start of this calendar year, when she won a second U.S. title and then led after the short program at the world championships, only to falter in the free to finish fourth.

"I need a change of pace so I can get my head on straight," she said of the work with a sports psychologist. She also noted she is working with "other high-performance trainers."

"I need to get back to my rhythms and my bread and butter," she said. "This is the last season before the Olympics, so I need to gather up myself before (the 2017 U.S. Championships in) Kansas City. I think that's possible. I'm feeling optimistic and positive about qualifying for worlds."

In her "Daphnis and Chloe" free skate, Gold opened with a triple lutz, but not in combination. She then hit a triple loop, followed by a double axel. Gold visibly steadied herself for a combination attempt as she went into a double axel but singled it and fell off the back of the combo, a triple toe. She later popped an attempted triple flip.

For her part, Kostner played things safe Friday, opting not to go for the triple-triple, though the one she executed in the short program earned her +2's and +3's in her Grade of Execution marks.

Her combination in the free was a double lutz-double toe (as well as a double axel-double toe-single loop), and while she struggled to stay on her feet on a triple loop late in her program, she otherwise was the Kostner that figure skating fans have loved throughout a career that now spans 14 years.

Kostner's musicality and sense of self on the ice are as pure and enchanting as they've ever been. The next question for her comeback is what comes next.

Italian nationals are this coming weekend in Egna, Italy, just a stone's throw from where Kostner was born. Her publicist confirmed to icenetwork that the skater will be there, competing for her eighth title -- and her first since 2013.