- Figure Skating
Figure skater Gracie Gold's secret weapon: Twin sister Carly
SOCHI, Russia – Tucked into the crowd at TD Garden in Boston during the U.S. Championships last month, Carly Gold clutched her phone as her sister performed her free skate, four minutes away from a lifelong dream: an Olympic berth.
“Speecheless,” Carly tweeted after Gracie Gold, her twin – older by just 40 minutes – delivered a knock-out performance that not only punched her ticket to the Sochi Games, but also garnered her a first U.S. national title. It was a moment of culmination after what had been a non-stop 12 months.
The Golds arrived in Sochi just a few days prior to Gracie competing in the team event free skate, the start of snapping in the final piece of what has been a ten-year puzzle.
“It’s been such a long journey when I look back,” Gracie’s mom, Denise Gold, told NBCOlympics.com last week after one of Gracie’s practices. “It was all a question of was this something she really wanted to try and do. There were a lot of painful times, but we made it through.”
Embedded video_content_type: Golden pair: Gracie Gold and her twin sister, Carly
It was Carly who shared a room with Gracie during Nationals, letting her sister bounce her on-ice frustrations off her (Carly is a national-level skater, too), or just put in a movie and forget about it all.
“For Gracie, having someone she could talk to freely and whenever she wanted to was really helpful I think,” said Carly. Unsurprisingly, the sisters call each other best friends. “It helped her get out some of her anxieties. With me, she doesn’t have to think about everything around her.”
There have been plenty of things to think about over the last 13 months, starting when a 17-year-old Gracie vaulted to second place at the U.S. Championships, making her an odds-on favorite to qualify for the Sochi Olympics.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Growing up Gold: Photos of Gracie Gold from childhood
But Gracie, as any human being would, has had her doubts along the way.
“At one point she said to me after a bad practice, ‘Mom, what if I don’t make the team this year? What if I do that?’” Denise described. “I said, ‘Then we’ll be sad, but it’ll be OK. You have to believe you’ll move on.’” Looking back, for us, it was a journey we feel like we had to be on – for whatever reason that is. Too many things have fallen into place for us to be here; it’s not random.”
Nor is Gracie and Carly’s relationship, one of a sisterly bond, but also of twins, and of best friends.
“I’m a confidante in a way, I guess,” said a brunette-haired Carly. “Someone she can just look to when she’s stressed.”
Embedded video_content_type: Golden girl: Getting to know Gracie Gold
The stress was high for the Golds when Gracie, in the beginning of an Olympic season, was fourth at a small event in Salt Lake City, the last straw in a stack that sent the Midwest-raised Gracie – along with Denise and Carly – to Los Angeles to train with well-known coach Frank Carroll, he of Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek fame.
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“Everything just sort of fell into place after we moved to L.A.,” Carly said, smiling. “There wasn’t much time to think – we had to go with our instincts.”
Denise and Carly recall the family watching Sarah Hughes win the gold medal at the Salt Lake Olympics – the girls then gymnastics nuts – spurring them to start skating over the next two years, first in Chicago and then in St. Louis.
“It was just casual skating then,” Denise remembered. “But there is something about when your kids are figure skaters that we’d take the girls to a mall after practice, or to eat and they’d still have their costumes on and people would say, ‘Oh, are you going to the Olympics?’ But to us that wasn’t real. She was just so little.”
As the girls got older and Gracie gained more talent and traction, the questions turned from sweet and innocent to expectant and weighted.
“I think the first time I really thought it was possible was in 2010 when she was in Novice at Nationals in Spokane and we watched all the seniors qualifying for the Olympics,” Carly said.
“The Olympics are tricky because it depends how old you are, how well trained you are, if you’re injured – anything can happen,” Denise interjected.
Embedded owg_slideshow: 10 things to know on figure skater Gracie Gold
What has happened with Gracie, however, is that she’s peaked at the right time: with Carroll she has excelled, conjuring up a new short program in December (she nailed it at Nationals) and looking seamless on her triple-triple combination in Sochi, the make-or-break element in the ladies’ competition.
But for the Golds, the success for Gracie came on foot – not on skates – at the Opening Ceremony.
“Seeing her walk in the Opening Ceremony, we’re already feeling pretty successful,” Denise said. “But hopefully she can just do what we know she can, that’s all anyone ever wants. We just want her to feel good about how she performs.”
“I think the little things that happened when we were younger and worried about just don’t matter anymore,” Carly added. “You forget about those.”
“But they all happened for a reason,” said Denise. “Now we can look back and – who are we to say what the reason is? – but when you look back, it makes sense. It showed how each little thing helped.”
Embedded video_content_type: Gracie Gold confident after outstanding performance in team event
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