- Figure Skating
Gracie Gold faces the Olympic pressure head-on
Gracie Gold delivered a stirring performance at the U.S. Championships in 2013, earning silver and inserting herself into the Sochi conversation. The 18-year-old was sixth at the World Championships, helping earn the U.S. ladies three spots for the Olympics. Here she talks about rising to the pressure, her Olympic dreams and more.
NBC Olympics: How did you first get into skating?
Gracie Gold: I got my start in figure skating when I was eight years old. I went to my really good friend's birthday party at the local ice rink. There were a lot of freestylers on the ice, spinning and jumping in the middle wearing dresses. And as I was skating around with my mom and sister and I grabbed my sister’s arm and I said, "I want to do that." [Laughs] So after the party was done, we went to the desk and signed up for group lessons that fall.
NBC Olympics: And then once you started into skating, how did you progress?
Gold: I started the fall lessons just to learn how to skate that were just once a week, basic stuff. Later that winter we did an ice show and it was so much fun, and it was then that a lot of coaches said, “Oh, you're so good. You have so much talent.” But at the time I was just doing really basic elements.
But they told me how good I could be. And we just started private lessons, and our first competition, our second competition, getting double jumps, working on really hard elements. And from then on, that got the ball rolling, and I just kept going up the ladder just one step at a time.
NBC Olympics: At what point did you really realize, “Wow, I’m good at this!”?
Gold: Novice year is the first year I went to Nationals, and that was 2010. It was the Nationals that we were looking at Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu for the women's to go to the Olympics. It was an Olympic year. I had gotten fourth in Novice and when I was watching Rachael and Mirai have amazing skates and they were going to the Olympics, I thought that it's something that I really, really wanted to try for in the next four years.
NBC Olympics: Fast forward to Nationals in 2013, there was a lot of pressure on you because a lot of people had deemed you the sport’s “next big thing.” How did you handle that?
Gold: There was a lot of expectation, a lot of talk, a lot of pressure at Nationals. I really had to work on putting it out of my mind. In the short program I got really nervous, like stopped breathing and it just … didn't happen. I was very upset at myself, but in a sense, that sort of put some fire in my belly. And I was able to have that next day to regroup. Then in that long program, I just sort of had a very calm acceptance about it, and I just knew what I had to do. I knew what I could do, and I combined those two things to skate that long program.
Embedded video_content_type: Golden girl: Getting to know Gracie Gold
NBC Olympics: Was that the first time you felt like you had felt pressure like that?
Gold: It's hard, it really is. Nationals is such a big event, with lights, and there are cameras everywhere backstage. They just want to get shots of you, but sometimes that can feel like pressure. A lot of talk, a lot of fans everywhere. So, that second day I really had to isolate myself and just focus on each practice. I just just made a checklist in my head. That's what I was doing at that moment, and I had to ignore everything else. And once I got my feet under me again, I started to feel really good for the long program.
NBC Olympics: After you finished that long program, what was your reaction? You had jumped onto the podium with it.
Gold: I felt about 80 percent pure joy and 20 percent relief. To be able to have that kind of skate after, I was so relieved that I'd been able to do it. But the rest of me was just so excited that I could've skated that well. I was just hoping for a clean skate. I didn't even expect anything that great. It was so exciting.
NBC Olympics: So you place at Nationals and then go on to take sixth at the World Championships, your first appearance there. What did those experiences do for you and your skating?
Gold: I learned a lot about myself. I definitely learned that I really was a fighter, and that I don't give up easily. I learned that at such nerve-wracking competitions I can put out strong programs. It gave me a lot of confidence, just sort of restated what I know that I can do.
NBC Olympics: This season your free skate is to “Sleeping Beauty.” Can you explain why you chose that music and what you love about the program?
Gold: Well, with the Olympics in Sochi we wanted to pick a piece that worked with that. The composer, Tchaikovsky, is Russian. Everyone knows that music; they can hum the melody. The waltz part is my favorite, and I skate really well to it. So, when we were brainstorming ideas and we turned it on, I moved so well to it that we thought it was a great pick.
NBC Olympics: Say you do make the Olympic team and get to travel to Sochi. What would that mean to you?
Gold: It would be literally a dream come true. Every skater when they're little, when they first step on the ice and they do something well, they say, “I want to go to the Olympics!” Or, they look at Nationals, and they say, “I want to be on that podium!” So, to be able to be at the Nationals podium next year and go to the Olympics would be my dream come true.
NBC Olympics: Skating is a lot harder than it looks, correct? Can you explain the work you really have to put in to get to the Olympic level?
Gold: It's a lot of hard work. Every moment counts. So, from your starting position to your very last movement and even the way you get off the ice, every detail counts. You're constantly moving even just an arm, a head, your legs, for such jumps and spins. It's hard cardio. You get really warm, really fast. Your legs are working. It’s a lot more difficult than it looks on TV.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Gracie Gold
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