HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Gracie Gold learned a lesson at 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America that will likely stick with her the rest of her skating career: Don’t take spins for granted.
The 2014 Olympian pre-rotated and missed grabbing her toe going into her camel spin, which caused her to spiral out of control in her combination spin during Saturday afternoon’s short program.
“Missing a combination spin in a short program, points-wise, is very unfortunate,” said Gold, who scored 60.81, good for third place.
She had no trouble with her triple loop and double Axel, but did suffer from a minor error on the landing of her opening sequence, a triple Lutz-triple toe loop. Despite the errors, Gold was still able to laugh at herself at the end of the day.
“Emotionally, it’s kind of funny-embarrassing and a little embarrassing to do such a great program and then to miss on such a little thing,” she said. “Camel spins are way harder than people give them credit for and if you take them for granted like I did, you wind up missing your last element box.”
“Frank (Carroll) and Lori (Nichol) perhaps overreacted slightly,” said Gold, responding to her coaches’ dramatic reactions to her mistake. “I mean, I still ended with a really nice back scratch spin.”
Gold said she plans to fight in Sunday’s free skate in hopes of making up ground on the two Russians who are ahead of her. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva is in the lead with 67.41 points, followed by Elena Radionova with 65.57, which is nearly five points ahead of Gold.
“I’m still in the running and that’s what matters,” Gold said.
Fellow Team USA athlete Samantha Cesario also had a strong showing in the short program, ending the day in fourth. Cesario was especially proud of starting her season with a triple flip-triple loop.
“It felt really good,” Cesario said. “Doing it here in practice and getting it out in competition, every time you do it, it builds confidence. It wasn’t my best foot landing and I still went for it, so that’s something that will definitely help me build confidence in the jump.”
2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu sits in 10th after scoring 49.29.
The New No. 1 Denney
Haven Denney has often skated in the shadow of older sister Caydee Denney, a 2010 Olympian and two-time U.S. champion in pairs skating. Now that Caydee Denney is sitting out the 2014-15 season while she rehabilitates a right ankle injury, it’s Haven Denney’s turn to step into the spotlight.
Haven Denney and partner Brandon Frazier skated into third place with 61.08 points in Saturday’s short program, helping Haven Denney solidify herself as the new No. 1 Denney. The score marked a new personal best for the skaters, whose previous international high was 58.67 points at 2013 NHK Trophy. Denney and Frazier sit just 1.30 points behind China’s Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang. Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov are in first with 69.16.
In addition to Caydee Denney and partner John Coughlin sitting out the season, the two U.S. pairs that competed at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games have both since split, leaving room for Haven Denney and Frazier to step into the spotlight. Haven Denney and Frazier finished fifth at the past two U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Also hoping to move to the top of the U.S. pairs podium are Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, who finished fourth Saturday with 60.61. The newly engaged couple has made its intentions clear for this quadrennium leading into the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“We have a lot of goals, but first we’d love to win nationals this year and every year after leading up to the 2018 Olympics,” said Scimeca.
A third U.S. pair, Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage, made a strong senior grand prix debut with 58.41 points, good for fifth place.
“It definitely feels easier than I expected,” Settlage said of competing on the senior level. “I was just expecting it to be more intense but it wasn’t. I think we’re doing really well finding what works for us.”