Ice Network

Gold not out for redemption at Team Challenge Cup

U.S. champion focused on helping team; Yamaguchi stresses camaraderie
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Gracie Gold insists that she is not viewing the 2016 Kosé Team Challenge Cup as a chance to redeem herself from her "humbling" experience at the world championships. -Getty Images

SPOKANE, Wash. -- It's been nearly three weeks, and the hangover from the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships is still dogging Gracie Gold.

That doesn't necessarily mean a cure is in the offing when the 2016 Kosé Team Challenge Cup makes its debut here Friday night. But her presence on Team North America -- in addition to the star power it lends to the inaugural event -- is at least an early opportunity to start rebuilding her psyche at the halfway point of the current Olympic cycle.

The two-time U.S. champion seemed on the verge of a defining moment at the Boston worlds, leading the ladies field following a splendid short program that left her three points clear of a bunched field -- and close enough to see the shine in what would have been her first world championship medal.

And then, disaster.

A fall on her first combination. A late triple lutz scaled back to a double. Three rivals vaulted past her: Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva claimed the gold medal, while U.S. teammate Ashley Wagner came away with a stunning silver. And Gold has been unsparing in her self-evaluation.

"It still makes me sick to my stomach to think about it," she admitted Thursday after her practice session at Spokane Arena.

In other words, nothing's changed from her initial reaction in Boston, where she said she was "ashamed" and went so far as to apologize.

"I was really glad that I was able to skate a wonderful short for the crowd and for my country," Gold reflected. "But I still am just really disappointed in myself and really saddened by what happened.

"I guess it's humbling. Skating is a matter of moments, and just one moment can change your whole life."

Now comes the process of perspective, and restoring her confidence.

"Just starting back on a lower peg and climbing back up -- there are benefits to that," she said. "Sometimes, the great athletes of the past [have to do that] before they rise back up. So hopefully it will add that little bit extra that I need to skate well when my country needs me to."

This might be one of those times, although it's a far piece from the Olympic or world stage -- even if the field is top shelf.

Two of the four recently crowned world champions are entered: Medvedeva on Team Europe and Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford for North America.

Wagner and ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates give North America two more world medalists from Boston, and Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won medals at the two previous worlds.

Boyang Jin of China, who won bronze in Boston, is the only other current world medalist competing, after world ice dance champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France pulled out earlier in the week due to injury. In all, 11 world or Olympic medalists are in the field.

The Team Challenge Cup matches three continental teams -- North America, Europe and Asia -- made up of skaters from all four disciplines: three men's and ladies singles competitors, and two pairs and ice dance entries.

On Friday night, it's singles only, with the continental standings determined by individual placement rather than points (although individual point-winners will also be recognized). Come Saturday, things start afresh, with sessions in the afternoon and evening and aggregate scores sorting out the winners. A Sunday exhibition wraps up the weekend.

There's also $617,000 in prize money to ratchet up the stakes beyond just a post-worlds friendly.

That's one reason why Gold doesn't look at this event as simply an opportunity to wash Boston out of her hair.

"I can't really think that way right now," she insisted. "None of us can. That's the same for, 'You skated lights out at worlds -- are you ready to do it again?' We're just here to try something new.

"It's not about us; it's about the team. It's about, how much can I help North America?" Gold continued. "In this case, every point counts. It's maybe not as much about the color of medal you get."

Still, there are a few competitors in the field who are looking for some individual reinforcement in the wake of disappointing seasons or a tough go at worlds -- notably men's competitors Jason Brown and Denis Ten, who have struggled with injuries.

"I never really had a season this year," Brown said.

And there are others simply curious about the across-the-border dynamics.

"When the American dance team (Chock and Bates) came in, I gave them a big hug," Radford said. "This is probably the only time in our entire career that we'll get to experience that. Working with people that you normally compete with is kind of neat."

As for the team captains -- Olympic gold medalists Kristi Yamaguchi for North America, Christopher Dean for Europe and Shizuka Arakawa for Asia -- what little strategy they can wield comes in how they align their skaters for Friday's session. More important, Yamaguchi offered, "is how they all support each other."

"You don't want to let your teammates down, and the kind of momentum a good performance can create will be very important," Yamaguchi said. "I think when we saw the team competition in Sochi, it was a whole other feeling -- a certain dynamic. Having the competitors invested in each other is something you just don't see in a regular competition."