SOCHI, Russia – Gracie Gold has been waiting for this moment since she announced herself to a skating nation at last year's U.S. nationals in Omaha, finishing second to Ashley Wagner but stealing the show.
She's been waiting for the opportunity to announce herself to the world. That moment came Sunday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the 2014 Olympic Games, when she received the highest international long program score of her career, 129.38 points, to finish second in that portion of the team event and clinch the bronze medal for the United States.
But she had her mind on a medal of another color after her skate: "Someone named Gold has never won gold, so I'm told."
That could be later, skater. She'll be back soon enough competing in the women's event near the end of the Games, where she will be a long shot for a medal in a packed field, including Russian 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia, who was the only skater to beat Gold on Sunday.
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But for now, she and her teammates had become Olympic medalists, a title they will carry with them for life.
"I would say that's everybody's dream," Gold said. "I was doing the program I was trained to do, and I'm thinking, 'I'm looking at the Olympic rings and Sochi.' It has been the best year of my life, hands down."
The 18-year-old Gold took the ice with confidence and poise in her six-minute warmup, and nothing changed when she skated for real. She landed seven clean triples, was as polished and lyrical as she's ever been, and finished with the satisfied look of an athlete who expected a performance just that solid.
"Not everyone on Team USA had their best performance," she said, "and so Ashley and I knew we really had to bring our A-game. And so far, so good. But Jason (Brown, Sunday's men's long program skater) and I were definitely a little nervous. Our parents told us that neither of us did team sports because we didn't like having other people rely on us but also having that extra pressure. So I'm really glad that Jason and I both skated well. And I can't believe that just happened."
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Her coach, Frank Carroll, who also coached Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, said he's been working with Gold to "accept good and accept excellent instead of perfect."
It appears that effort has been a success.