Gracie Gold Will Thrive on Pressure to Win Gold in Sochi

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2014

Gracie Gold holds her gold medal on the podium at the women's skating awards ceremony at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Figure skater Gracie Gold has all the intangibles needed to become one of the great stars of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

First of all, she has the name. What's more significant than the name of Gold for the Olympics?

Here's some of the secondary characteristics: She's blonde, she's beautiful, she has a ready smile and she knows how to play to the camera.

All she has to do to take advantage of her position is win in perhaps the most glamorous event of the Winter Olympics.

On the surface, Gold has a very tough assignment. While she was very impressive when she won the U.S. Championships last month, the caliber of competition in the Olympics is going to be much higher. If Gold is going to reach the medal stand and then climb to the top level, she is going to have to get the best of Japanese figure skater Mao Asada, South Korean Kim Yuna as well as Russian star Julia Lipnitskaia.

Asada and Yuna have been battling for years and are thoroughly accomplished, while Lipnitskaia, 15, could become the next Russian star. She is the reigning European champion and highly skilled.

But Gold has more than a fighting chance to come home with a medal, perhaps even with the one that bears her name.

Gold, 18, has gone through a period of significant improvement. Her win in the U.S. Championships was well-earned over Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu and Polina Edmunds.

She put her athleticism and leaping ability on display. She has been called a natural jumper, and when she started to train with Los Angeles-based skating coach Frank Carroll in September, it seemed to bring out the best in her skating.

Carroll suggested musical changes that worked well with her strengths in the short program, and she also started to consult choreographer Lori Nichol to bring sophistication to her skating. 

When Gold took the ice in Boston, she projected confidence, growth and athleticism. It paid off with the championship, and it came after a strong showing in which she finished fourth at the NHK Championships in Japan in November.

Gold's state of mind is strong going into the Sochi games. Instead of being cowed by her competition, Gold is confident that she can come up with her best performance when the medals are on the table. 

She credits Carroll for helping her to pay attention to the smaller details that can help her to get good scores from the judges.

"I think the year is 2014 and it's a new Gracie," Gold told the Associated Press. With Frank every day after I am done jumping, we just take time to appreciate the nuances and the music and connecting with the audience and judges and have that warmth with my skating, the things that light up the rink." 

If she lights it up in Sochi enough, Gracie may just bring home the gold.