Gracie Gold has what it takes to emerge from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia as the face of U.S. figure skating in the void left by the legendary Michelle Kwan.
The rehabilitation of the U.S. women's team is far from over after the 2010 Vancouver Games saw the team fail to reach the podium.
Fresh off a U.S. Championship gold in Boston in January, Gold is now in a position to propel the U.S. team back to the podium.
Gold, along with Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds, are the representatives in Sochi. Wagner is more highly regarded thanks to her stellar international track record, but has hit a slump as of late that saw her fall twice at nationals, finish fourth and still be named to the team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu.
Rather than choose one over the other for the innovative team portion of the Games, U.S. figure skating chose Wagner to skate in the short program on Jan. 8, and Gold to skate in the long program the day after.
Gold's shot at cementing her spot as the face of the team is furthered by the fact the United States had such a poor showing on opening day. The team currently sits in seventh place out of 10 in a team contest that sees only the top five advance to the finals (Jeremy Abbott scored a 65.65 on a miserable run to put the U.S. in the hole going into Saturday's action).
Now is the time for Gold to dart through the door that has opened before her. She has an extravagant set planned for her runs, and believes she can finish near the top, via of the L.A. Times:
I think I definitely have a shot at being in the top. I don’t want to say a number or anything. It’s definitely going to be kind of do what I did at nationals but at the Olympics, so a little bigger, a little bolder, a little better.
Outside of saving the team after a torrid start and from what may turn out to be another disappointing run from Wagner, Gold may still be able to shine on an individual capacity in the second week of the Games.
But the individual path will be much more difficult. Kim Yuna of South Korea, Mao Asada of Japan and Carolina Kostner of Italy figure to be top contenders in the solo events.
Despite her youth at the age of 18, Gold has had a very grounded look at her prospects in Sochi, as she told USA Today’s Kelly Whiteside back in October of 2012:
There is always the next big thing, the next big skater. Everyone saying, 'She'll bring back women's skating. This will be the one to watch at the Olympics.' And they say things that are so far away but really you have to bring it back in and look at the next competition, the next day, what you want to accomplish because if you get too far ahead of yourself you can trip yourself up.
Since that fateful interview, Gold has dominated the sport and surpassed any and all competition in her way.
The next step, which seems all too obvious at this point based on her current trajectory, is to revive a former powerhouse team lost in a slumber and take a critical next step on an individual level.
For Gold, those goals are within reach.
Note: All info courtesy of NBC Olympics unless noted otherwise.