For Gracie Gold, it was a magical moment, if not yet a golden one.
The U.S. champion, in front of a home crowd, finally delivered the goods when it counted, in the women’s short program at the world figure skating championships on Thursday.
Gold has had so much promise and so many stops and starts that it seemed as if the United States would be bogged down for another 10 years without a women’s world title.
But Gold stepped onto the ice prepared and calm in the warmth of the TD Gardens, a good place for her. The crowd roared when she was announced. She wasn’t expecting it , but she was focused on her job.
“It just felt right,” she said. “I felt cautiously optimistic that it was going to be really good.”
And it was. She purred through a triple Lutz – triple toe loop combination, an element that earned her 11.60 points out of the 40.51 technical marks she received. The crowd noise boomed, just as it did when she landed a triple flip.
Gold finished up with 76.43 points a season’s best, and 2.67 points ahead of the Russian nobody expected to be the top Russian: Anna Pogorilaya, with 73.98, it too a season’s best.
In third place is the Russian favourite, Evgenia Medvedeva, caught in a bind when she didn’t land her triple flip well enough to tack a triple toe loop onto the end of it. Oopsy. But she had presence of mind to attach the missing toe loop onto the end of her last jump pass, a triple loop. “You get tense, because you need to switch your mindset to do another combination that you haven’t trained so much,” she said afterward. “You have to fight and you cannot make mistakes.”
Medvedeva, who won the Grand Prix Final in her first season as a senior, however, had never encountered such a large throng. And this was her first senior world championship.
“When I stepped out and saw the full stands, and the spectators so close to the ice, I realize that this is a big stage,” she said.
Neither Medvedeva, nor Elena Radionova were as steady on their feet as Pogorilaya.
With such a logjam at the top, something had to give. Ashley Wagner dished out a thriller, finishing fourth. The top four women are within 3.27 points of each other. Radionova is fifth.
Tiny little workaholic Satoko Miyahara of Japan, the reigning world silver medalist, finished only sixth with 70.72 points, but underrotated her triple flip. When the marks came up, her face was like stone.
She admitted she was nervous on the jumps and had set a goal of breaking 70 for the short program, and she did. Her spins were a marvel.
Former world champion and Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada sits in only ninth place after she stepped out of her triple Axel, which she underroated. She also doubled the triple loop at the end of her triple flip. That left her with 65.87 points.
Ahead of her in eighth place was 2015 Canadian champion Gabby Daleman, who blasted her season’s best by almost seven points when she landed everything she attempted, including a flawless triple toe loop – triple toe loop combo.
She outpointed current Canadian champion Alaine Chartrand, who had stormed through her practices all week. But Chartrand ended up 17th, when she underrotated the second part of her triple Lutz – triple toe loop combo, which caused her to stumble out of it. And then she fell on a double Axel. She lost focus, thought she was doing well, and then….It’s a hard lesson. She fell short of her season’s best by almost 12 points.
But Gold – and Wagner – were having none of it. “She was MAHvellous,” said Gold’s coach, Frank Carroll, walking about looking like David Bowie in his black brimmed hat.
“I was very very happy, but you know she skated so consistently day in and day out. Both the short and long program.”
“Now, for the long program, she’d better do the same thing or she’s dead,” he deadpanned. “I will arrange for her to be assassinated.”
She’s been training her long program very well this week. (But so had Chartrand.)
Wagner breezed into the mixed zone, glowing, admitted she’d fallen on her behind while celebrating her skate on centre ice.
“It shows I’m human even after a superhuman skate,” she said.
If she looked in control during that ‘Hip Hip Chin Chin” routine, In truth, she wasn’t. “Fake it till you make it, “ she said. She had a shaky skate in a morning practice and her warmup wasn’t all she had hoped it to be either.
“I got back to my room and just reminded myself that it played in my head so often and it never works for me.”
So she just decided to relax. She knew she was prepared. “I don’t feel I have to make any excuses for myself. Today I got out of my own way.”
Her triple-triple combo is “money for me,” Wagner said. “If I get that first jump out of the way, I have a feel of the ice.”
But the event isn’t over and the medals haven’t been won yet. The women’s final is on Saturday night.