SOCHI, Russia – Gracie Gold and Jason Brown became singles skaters because they weren’t keen on team sports.
After spending two days watching their American teammates perform in the first Olympic team figure skating event, it was finally their turn on the ice.
“We were definitely a little nervous,” Gold said. “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!”
What happened was a bronze medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Team USA actually had cemented third place before world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White even glided to the center of the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Russia won its first gold medal of the Sochi Games with 75 points, followed by Canada with 65 and Team USA with 60.Gold grew up watching Olympic gymnastics, noting that all of America could get behind the Magnificent Seven from 1996 and the Fierce Five from 2012.
“That’s what I told people on the street, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a team event, just like gymnastics.’ And then they get it,” said Gold, who was raised in Illinois. “They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s so cool, I can’t wait to watch Team USA.”
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir finished fourth in the pairs competition on Saturday, putting the U.S. in third place heading into the last night.
Brown skated well, despite a fall on a combination, to finish fourth among the five men. He was so energetic that his teammates, as well as members of the other teams, were clapping with the music. Brown scored 153.67, though he was overshadowed by Evgeny Plushenko’s 168.20, to add seven points to the U.S. total.
After his fall, Brown got up smiling. He said he thought, “OK just keep going, keep performing. Leave it behind you, and that's what I did.”
Gold was next for Team USA, posting her best score of the season, 129.38, to place second among the ladies and garner nine points. Only Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia, who scored 141.51, was better. However, the favorites in the ladies’ individual competition, Mao Asada of Japan and Yuna Kim of South Korea, were not among the contenders Sunday night.
“I am really pleased,” Gold said. “It’s kind of what I wanted to do. I definitely had more to bring to the table, just little things.”
She said she wanted to make a couple of spins faster and fix some landings. “I still had one fist pump in there, so I know Frank (Carroll, her coach) will give me a slap on the wrist.”
That left Davis and White to win the free dance. And just as they did in the short dance, they defeated Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, 114.34 to 107.56.
“I think we had a really great performance tonight,” White said. “It felt really complete and with a score like that, it definitely seems like it came across to the judges. We’re feeling confident in what we’re doing, but I think tonight we’re just so proud to be a part of Team USA and what Team USA was able to accomplish out on the ice.”
White said the whole team had been looking forward to the event since the season began and had gotten used to the idea in the ISU World Team Trophy, which has been held three times since its debut in 2009.
“Of course, it’s always stressful any time you have to step out on to the Olympic ice,” he said. “I think having the support of our Olympic teammates and being there for each other helped us all through and we felt like we were out there with each other and for each other.
“I think that was what was so special for Team USA, getting a medal, but at the same time doing it as a team was a really great feeling.”
The Americans also gave themselves confidence as they head into their separate skating events.
Gold and Brown will join Jeremy Abbott and Ashley Wagner, who skated the singles short programs, in the individual events.
“It’s a great time to really get that camaraderie and to unite as a team before we all split off and compete individually,” Brown said. “We are going to be cheering on each other; I think it brings us closer together.”After they received their flowers — they will get their bronze medals at the medals plaza Monday night — they skated a victory lap. Together.