Ice Network

Salt shakers: Gold finds, fixes some loose screws

No fear for Carriere; No disappointment for Hicks
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Reigning U.S. ladies silver medalist Gracie Gold is saddened by the status of her boot. -Lorrie Parker

Fellow skaters did double takes when they saw Gracie Gold in the official hotel here Thursday afternoon.

"Everyone asked, 'Oh, where's your skate bag?'" Gold said. "I was standing in the lobby holding a boot and blade in one hand. What a great dose of karma."

At an unofficial practice that morning, something felt way off with her left boot.

"I looked down and the screws in my heel were all gone," she said. "The heel was separate from the heel of my skate. You could pull it off and there would be space. So I thought, oh, awesome."

Marina Zoueva, who is coaching Gold here at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, sent out an SOS for a screwdriver, but the problem was more severe.

"All four of the heads of the screws in my heel had broken off and were still stuck in my skate," Gold said. "You need a special drill to get them out."

It was already around 2 p.m., and the senior ladies official practice was set to begin four hours later; Gold thought she might have to withdraw. But Mitch Moyer, U.S. Figure Skating's senior director of athlete high performance, had an idea.

Years ago, when Moyer first started coaching, he owned and operated a skate shop in Houston.

"We needed something that would drill through the plate," he said.

Moyer thought a machine shop would have the equipment they needed, so he and Gold's mom, Denise, found Paramount Machine, about a 35-minute drive away.

"They drilled new holes in the blade, and now I have six screws in my heel instead of four," Gold said. "This blade is never coming off again."

Carriere vows to skate without fear

Like many, Stephen Carriere -- who won silver here with a clean short program Thursday and a stylish free skate Friday -- has had his competitive ups and downs.

As a junior, he won the 2006 U.S. title, and the following season he was crowned champion at the Junior Grand Prix Final and the world junior championships. In 2008, he placed 10th at the world championships.

Injuries and coaching changes took a toll on the Boston-based skater. Coached by Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson until 2009, he switched to Priscilla Hill and Karl Kurtz for a time, and to current coach Suna Murray in 2011. He withdrew from the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Championships due to ankle trouble.

Carriere, 10th in the U.S. last season, has been slower than some to add a quad to his programs, although he has tried it in summer competitions. He landed clean quad toes in practice here and appeared to land it at the start of his free skate, but he didn't fully check out.

"It's definitely in the program," Carriere said. "Last year, I wanted to get in it the program, but mentally I was not there. Each competition, I was not able to go out there and attack; I was holding back."

A new sports psychologist -- plus encouragement from skating friends including Tanith Belbin -- has given him a more positive attitude this season.

"Tanith did my short to Scheherazade," Carriere said. "I've had contact with her since 2008 worlds. She's always been amazing and a great friend. Working with her is really easy."

Another friend, Christina Gao, helped Carriere make contact with David Wilson, who choreographed his free skate to Don Quixote.

This summer brought both success and sadness. The 24-year-old Carriere, a junior at Boston College, was accepted by the school's Carroll School of Management, one of very few transfer applicants admitted into the highly competitive program. 

"If skating is over this year -- I don't know yet if it will be -- I am going to double up with finance," he said. "My father is a financial advisor, and it's in my blood. I'm very interested in marketing analytics, and I think there's a demand for that in the job market."

He also lost his grandmother. Despite the sadness, he is grateful for the maturity the experience brought him.

"It wasn't just losing my grandmother; it was watching my mother lose her mother," he said. "She stayed so strong until the part where the funeral parlor takes the body away, and then she just broke down. My father provides for the family -- he was working -- so I had to be her rock. I've never had to be someone's emotional rock before."

Carriere vows his free skates from here forward will include the quad.

"It is in the long program at each competition. I'm going for it without fear," he said. "The whole of last season was about skating with fear. This season will be skating without fear."

Hicks moves past disappointment

Courtney Hicks, the talented powerhouse who won the 2011 U.S. junior title and placed fourth at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, had a standout summer, gaining an impressive 185.86 points in winning the Glacier Falls Summer Classic.

When entries were announced for 2013 Skate America, though, her name was not on the list.

"It was a little disappointing at first, but it's good because I know I can work on all of the elements in my programs and have a good practice time," the 17-year-old said. "It's kind of sad in one way, but also kind of a positive."

Hicks is making the most of Salt Lake City, her first-ever senior international.

"I want to get a feeling for what it's like to travel with Team USA on the senior level, get some good exposure and a good start to the season," she said.

Jere Michael, who with Alex Chang coaches Hicks in Southern California, takes the same positive attitude as his pupil.

"The decision that was made we have to support," he said. "I believe everything happens for a reason. Let's keep healthy and train hard; maybe travel isn't supposed to be what we are doing. Of course, the exposure would have been nice, but we are an alternate, and we are in the second tier of alternates with ISU points, so we shall see."

Michael added there may be an opportunity for another senior B international down the road.

"It will be decided by the [U.S. Figure Skating] international committee within the next couple of months," he said. "It is up to them."

Like many big jumpers, Hicks seeks to improve her skating and performance skills, something on which Michael and Chang work with her daily.

"There is one specific session where we focus on edge control, edge quality, finesse," he said. "A lot of powerful jumpers can get pigeonholed into that place and it is what it is, but Courtney wants to contend with top in the world and is willing to work hard and open herself up."