ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Not even an hour had passed since Gracie Gold’s come-from-behind effort clinched her second national title when the elephant entered the room.
No U.S. woman has won a singles figure skating medal at the world championships or Olympic Winter Games since 2006, a reporter reminded Gold, second place Polina Edmunds and third place Ashley Wagner at the press conference following the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Eyes wide, red lipstick still bright, the newly crowned U.S. champ was ready for a fight.
“Personally, I can only be really held accountable for three of those years,” she began, defiantly.
The medal drought is a sore point in a proud U.S. program that didn’t miss an Olympic medal podium from 1968 to 2006 and was nearly as flawless in the annual world championships. It’s of particular note this year, though, with the World Figure Skating Championships coming to Boston in March and April.
“That statistic is really sad,” Gold continued, “but it’s not as if U.S. women have been irrelevant to the sport of figure skating.”
It’s true. Gold finished fourth at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and Mirai Nagasu was one spot off the podium four years earlier in Vancouver. It’s been a similar story at worlds, with Gold finishing sixth, fifth and fourth at the past three worlds, and Wagner finishing fifth in two of those years and fourth in 2012.
Gold and Wagner also earned Olympic bronze medals in 2014 as part of the team event.
But it’s those top three spots that people remember.
And the pewter medal Gold won at last year’s world championships, when she struggled in the short program but rallied for fourth place, doesn’t really count.
Undeterred, Gold boldly suggested that U.S. women could win two medals in Boston — and then, remembering that both Wagner and Edmunds were flanking her at the press conference, amended it to three.
“I think we’re more than capable,” she said.
So going into Boston, Gold says she has “nothing to lose.” That was the same approach she took to Saturday night’s free skate, after some shaky moments in her short program left her 7.69 points behind Edmunds.
And the fans at the Xcel Energy Center saw what happened: Gold, wearing a bright red dress, skated last and erased Edmunds’ lead by completing seven triple jumps and four double jumps in a show-stealing performance.
Questioned why she didn’t approach the nationals short program with the same attitude, Gold was again defiant, turning the conversation back to the world championships.
“Another fourth of fifth place feels irrelevant for me,” she said. “If I’m not on the podium, I feel like I didn’t do anything.”