20-Year-Old Gracie Gold Hopes To Win World Figure Skating Medal For U.S.

Mar 30, 2016
Originally published on March 31, 2016 2:37 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

This is a big week for Gracie Gold. American figure skating fans are rooting for her to live up to her last name and win the World Figure Skating Championships. The competition is being held in Boston, a city that's very important to the 20-year-old. Craig Lemoult of member station WGBH caught up with the current U.S. champ.

GRACIE GOLD: Hi, guys.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Gracie Gold greets four journalists who have been waiting eagerly with notepads in hand to pelt the figure skating champion with questions.

G. GOLD: How old are you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Eight.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Six.

G. GOLD: Aw.

LEMOULT: They're reporting for the newspaper at their Watertown, Mass., elementary school.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: What's your favorite move?

G. GOLD: Well, that's really hard to pick just one, but my favorite jump is called a triple Lutz jump.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #4: Have you ever set a record in skating?

G. GOLD: I have set a few records.

LEMOULT: And this week in Boston, Gold's hoping to set more.

(SOUNDBITE OF IGOR STRAVINSKY SONG, "THE FIREBIRD")

LEMOULT: At a practice, she performs her long program to Stravinsky's "The Firebird," landing those triple Lutz's with a grace that overshadows the incredible athleticism each jump takes.

For this practice, she's not the only one on the ice. Darting and spinning around her are her teammates Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner as well as a trio of Japanese skaters. As they warm up, Gold sizes up the other skaters. She's ranked fifth in the world, but two of the Japanese women are ranked above her. No U.S. woman has made it to the medals podium at the worlds in a decade, but Gold says she's not focused too much on that.

G. GOLD: I would feel, honesty, more stressed if we had 10 years of, you know, like, medalists in a row. And you're like, you know, don't ruin the streak.

LEMOULT: Not only are the worlds in the United States this year. They're in the city where Gold was born, and Boston's where she won her first national championship in 2014.

G. GOLD: I figure that it can't hurt. You know, who knows if the hometown advantage is real or not, but I feel like I'll just - can take everything I get.

LEMOULT: Among the people cheering Gold on at the worlds this week is her twin sister, Carly, who's also a figure skater. Carly qualified for her first U.S. championship this year, so she was there to share in celebrating Gracie's win. She says she's excited for her sister's success.

CARLY GOLD: For this competition, I am totally good being in the stands, cheering as loud as I can.

LEMOULT: Their mom, Denise, will be cheering Gracie on, too.

DENISE GOLD: She could take it all if she skated what she's capable of. But that's the trick about skating - doing it when it matters.

LEMOULT: That is the trick. It takes an enormous amount of focus to bring it all together at once. Gold says every time she goes out there, even doing a routine she's practiced thousands of times, it's always different. There's a different crowd. Maybe it's a different country. Maybe she's feeling a bit off that day.

G. GOLD: It's all about adapting and readjusting literally every second of the program. You know, you have to stay focused to do, you know, your next jump, and then whatever happens, you have to leave it there because then you're on your way to the next element.

LEMOULT: It's a great life lesson even if you never put on skates. Gold is ranked fifth in the world right now, but the defending champion from Russia didn't qualify for this year's world championships, moving Gold up to the fourth-ranked skater competing. But she won't be content with fourth place. Former Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski says a medal at worlds this year isn't just a maybe for Gracie Gold. It's hers to lose. For NPR News, I'm Craig Lemoult in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.