The Inside Edge: Gold sinks teeth into skating, life

U.S. junior champion feels ready for upcoming season, considers orthodontics

American Gracie Gold has found ways to stay grounded in the midst of great expectations.
American Gracie Gold has found ways to stay grounded in the midst of great expectations. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(10/11/2012) - After last weekend, which included simultaneous competitions in Japan, Finland, Slovakia, France and Croatia, not to mention two U.S. regional qualifiers, the 2012-13 season is under way with a vengeance. We were agog with anticipation to see new programs from a lot of the top contenders, with a sprinkling of performances by top pros thrown into the mix at the Japan Open.

A few thoughts: Ashley Wagner looks primed for another superb season. We like her new Samson and Delilah program, and we adore the dress she and Jan Longmire created. After the Emmys, we anticipated plenty of costumes in yellow and orange -- hot trend colors this fall -- and Wagner's sexy mango yellow costume took the stage with authority.

"I chose the color and had a basic concept for the design, and Jan came up with the details," Wagner told us.

We'll be seeing a lot of young teen phenoms this coming year, but Wagner looks ready to show them what a magnificent and beautiful lady looks like.

Jeffrey Buttle, four years removed from eligible competition, blew us away with his beautiful and nearly flawless program at the Japan Open. We were bemused to see Evgeni Plushenko skating to a medley of Johnny Weir's music, wearing a Weir-like costume and even, seemingly, channeling some of Weir's style. And since he landed two good quads in his program, we'll be fascinated to see what he does this season.

Speaking of Weir, his legions of fans were deliriously happy to see him back in competition in Finland. Weir acquitted himself very respectably and there seems no question his comeback is for real.

Considering that the Grand Prix season hasn't even started, some big scores popped up at Finlandia. It's early in the season to see free skate scores of 168 (Richard Dornbush) and 171 (Yuzuru Hanyu). We're sure the pre-Olympic season is going to be an exciting one!


It seems likely enough that Gracie Gold's coming Grand Prix debut will be watched with great interest by the skating world. We talked to Gold on the phone last week, hoping to get a better sense of what the 17-year-old is all about. She said she is training well and looking forward to Skate Canada.

"Everything's been really good," Gold said. "I've just been focusing on my training, doing more of everything. I'm really looking forward to doing the competition with the other senior ladies who are some of the best in the world. I'm excited to be part of the whole Grand Prix atmosphere. I used to watch it on TV and dream about traveling with Team USA."

After a good competition at the U.S. International Classic, Gold is working on minor refinements.

"In my short, we're focusing on holding spins; the less reviews you have during your program, the better," she said. "And we're working on fixing the edge change in my triple flip. I want to put out really solid skates. I want to look like I belong with everyone there."

Gold is planning to continue including the Rippon Lutz in both of her programs. She still has a pole harness lesson on the triple Axel once a week, but it's not likely she'll be adding it to her programs any time soon.

"It's an incredibly hard jump to land for a lady, and risky; you can really hurt yourself on that jump. I can do it pretty consistently on the pole. But even trying it in the program, if you get a downgrade, you should stick to double Axel."

Although she is one of the rising stars in the U.S., Gold hasn't done as much international travel as many of her peers in skating. However, she took a pretty interesting two-week trip to Guatemala when she was very young.

"We used to live in Texas," Gold said. "My dad was an anesthesiologist and my mom was an ER nurse, and we went to an orphanage in Guatemala City. They performed a lot of procedures that the kids needed: appendectomies, hernia operations. I was 8 years old. It was more vacation for me, but I got to hang out in the hospital."

Gold has given a lot of thought to following her parents into medicine, in one form or another; she says becoming an orthodontist is one of her ambitions. For now, she's a senior in high school. She's planning to focus on skating next year, after which she'll apply to colleges in the Chicago area.

"The time and energy and school it takes to be a physician would take me so many years," she said. "So I think orthodontia would be a good field for me. I've also considered being a physician, maybe a cardiac surgeon. Sports psychology would also be a possibility."

We talked to Gold about her twin sister, Carly, who is also a senior lady. Carly will be competing in the Upper Great Lakes Regional Championships next week. Gracie says she and Carly are as close as twins can be.

"We do everything together," she said. "Sometimes, it's almost like we have a twin connection. We get so nervous for each other, and sometimes when she's having a bad day, I feel the same way. I talked to Alexe [Gilles] and she said she and Piper [Gilles] have the same thing."

Gracie says Carly and their parents help keep her grounded in the face of enthusiastic pressure from skating fans eager to see the next big star arise from the U.S.

"There's a lot of pressure and a lot of talk, but I try to ignore it," she said. "It has nothing to do with how I perform. I think it did affect me a little at Salt Lake, but I tried to keep everything together. They get a little crazy, but everyone wants to have fans."


Look for some skaters, including Scott Smith, in an TV commercial this coming holiday season. Smith told us he filmed the commercial, which stars pop star Jennifer Paige, a few weeks ago in Salt Lake City.

"It was really interesting," Smith said. "It was a 20-by-16 sheet of plastic in front of a green screen in a warehouse studio in downtown Salt Lake. It was my first time trying to skate on plastic, and the first time I tried to skate backward I fell over. You have to stay more on your toes than on real ice. It was embarrassing!"

Smith said he and four other skaters spent 12 hours on the shoot, which will result in a 30-second commercial.

"I had to skate around holding a present, and I had a little Santa hat on," he said. "I did a little one-foot spin and little hops and spread eagles, but nothing too crazy because 20-by-16 is really small. They were like, 'Imagine this, imagine that,' because of the green screen.

"We had to stand and wave to Santa, and they made us do it 20 times. I'm excited to see it! They're going to start airing it in mid-November."

Smith will be spending the next few months skating on a cruise ship in New Zealand and Australia, which sounds pretty amazing to us.

That's all for now,

Sarah and Drew
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