Ice Network

Gold overcomes travel troubles, jumps into lead

'Warrior Princess,' as coach Carroll calls her, sets personal best in short
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Positioning herself to win her first individual senior gold medal, American Gracie Gold blew her previous personal best out of the water, notching 69.45 points en route to winning the short. -Getty Images

You would never know that Gracie Gold had any problems earlier in the week based on her performance in the short program Friday at Skate Canada.

Flying in from Los Angeles -- her training base for about the past month -- to the Canadian maritime province of New Brunswick, Gold arrived at about 2 a.m. and then had an early-morning practice.

"I just didn't feel up to it," Gold said. "I just felt icky."

But then, Gold said, she and her coach, Frank Carroll, got together and had a talk.

"It was he and I against the world," she said.

And as a result, she was a very different skater when she took to the ice for the short program. Wearing a black and white dress and skating to George Gershwin's "Three Preludes," Gold sailed through her routine, landing her triple Lutz-triple toe and finishing in first place leading into Saturday's free skate.  

She finished with a personal-best 69.45 points, a much higher score than she posted at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic (58.49) in September in Salt Lake City. Gold's performance was strong enough to place ahead of 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia (66.89) and Japan's Akiko Suzuki (65.76). American Christina Gao also had a strong showing, landing all of her elements (including a triple toe-triple toe) with a graceful flow for fourth place (62.82).

Canadian and Skate Canada champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who has only been training for a few weeks while recovering from an injury to her landing foot, is in fifth place. Fellow Canadian Amélie Lacoste, who began training with coach Christy Krall in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the beginning of October, is sixth.

American Courtney Hicks, who won the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, struggled in her Grand Prix debut, doubling the back end of her planned triple-triple and also doubling a planned triple Lutz to finish ninth.

But it was Gold who shined most here in Saint John. And it was a performance she needed most considering the whirlwind of events that have taken place in her life of late.

Not long after Gold's skate in Salt Lake City, she announced she was moving to Southern California to train with Carroll, the coach who guided Evan Lysacek to the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver. Gold had been training with Alex Ouriashev outside of Chicago before deciding to relocate to California along with twin sister Carly and their mother. The move came as a surprise to many in the skating world, especially since it came at the start of an Olympic season.

With the start of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games a little more than a 100 days from now, Gold seemed to be telling the world she made the right decision. Of course, there is still the free skate here and the rest of the Grand Prix season (her next event is the NHK Trophy in Japan), but she seemed overjoyed by the performance tonight.  

"It felt so amazing," Gold said.

It also was a good turnaround for Gold at Skate Canada. A year ago, she made her senior-level Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada in Windsor, Ontario, and placed ninth in the short program and seventh overall.

Gold has always been known for her strong jumps, and even Carroll praised the work that Ouriashev had done with her in the past. But it seems that what has helped Gold the most since her move out West is that Carroll has brought about a new sense of confidence to her skating.

"I call her 'Gracie Warrior Princess'," Carroll said. "I want her to be a warrior and not scared. It doesn't matter how much people tell you how wonderful you are -- you have to believe it for yourself.

"My contribution to Gracie's skating really has been minimal. She was taught by Alex, who is a wonderful coach, a great technician."

Gold said she has enjoyed having Carroll at the boards, and even joked about his lengthy career in the sport.

"Frank has almost a century of figure skating behind him," she said. "And you want to have an experienced guy along for the journey."

Carroll, who is 74, laughed as he corrected his 18-year-old pupil, saying, "It's more like a half a century."

Lipnitskaia, who lives and trains in Moscow, is the 2013 world junior silver medalist and entered Skate Canada having already won the Finlandia Trophy earlier this season. Like Gold, Lipnitskaia also landed a triple Lutz-triple toe. She had a triple flip in her program (whereas Gold opted for the easier triple loop), but her components scores were slightly lower (Gold scored 30.92 compared to Lipnitskaia's 28.94).

Meanwhile, Suzuki, an Olympian and, at 28, the veteran of the field here, lost points for under-rotating the back end of her triple toe-triple toe and for her closing spin.

"It was not bad for the first Grand Prix of the season," Suzuki said.

For Osmond, however, the short program was not as strong as she would have wanted it to be. But considering she had only performed one clean short program in practice leading up to this competition, it wasn't so bad, either.

Osmond suffered an injury to her left foot back in September, while training in Los Angeles, and has only been training for the past three weeks. In her first week back on the ice, her coach, Ravi Walia, said she was limited to just single jumps.

She opened her program to mature music from Sweet Charity with a triple toe-triple toe and made a three-turn on the landing of that combination. Osmond landed her triple flip and then landed her double Axel, and seemingly was ready to float to the end. But on the landing of the Axel, she appeared to catch an edge, and when she turned forward to continue her program, she fell.

Walia said considering her lack of training time, he actually started clapping after the double Axel because she had been relatively clean up to that point, and then she turned around and had the fluke fall. The judges rewarded her for the double Axel, but she did lose a point for the fall.

"I think she was probably more excited than anything else," Walia said when trying to explain the fall.

"I'm not sure what it was," Osmond said. "It was probably just some excitement taking over. I was saying, 'Oh my God, I just did all three of my jumps, and I can just have fun the rest of my program.' Then my feet gave out and I thought, 'Well, I might as well finish the program.'"

ICE CHIPS - World silver medalist Denis Ten has been home in Kazakhstan since last week while battling an infection, his coach, Frank Carroll, said. According to Carroll, Ten has had an infection that has resulted in black spots on both of his ankles and an infection in his jaw. Ten even had to have a tooth removed. Carroll also said a junior-level skater from Italy who trains at their rink in Los Angeles has suffered from a similar ailment. "He has these spots on his ankles, and they are ugly," Carroll said. "And it aggravates things when he puts on his skates. He left to go home before Skate America and will meet with doctors, and I hope to God that they help him." Ten withdrew from Skate America, held last weekend in Detroit. He is scheduled to compete at Cup of China, Nov. 1-3, but Carroll is not sure whether he will be able to skate. … As for Evan Lysacek's potential comeback, Carroll did not have much to say other than the fact that Lysacek received a medical treatment Monday. "I don't know about Evan at all," Carroll said. Lysacek, who suffered a torn labrum in his hip, needs to compete at an international competition, and achieve minimum technical scores as set forth by the ISU, to qualify for Sochi. He has not competed since winning the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver in 2010.