Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Can Gracie Gold Deliver as America's Golden Girl in Sochi?

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    Figure skating darling Gracie Gold has some advice on how to avoid trouble with social media. Click to find out more. (Published Monday, Feb 3, 2014)

    The best name in women's figure skating might belong to the American champion, Gracie Gold.

    It certainly will be the most memorable if she can match her moniker by winning gold in this week's figure skating competition at the Winter Games.

    The 18-year-old skating star, who made her Sochi debut in the team event at the start of the Games, told the Today show this week that 80 percent of her would be satisfied with just having made it onto Olympic ice. 

    But that the other 20 percent is yearning to medal. With her short program performance looming on Wednesday, the up-and-coming skating star will have to pull out all the stops in order to win the grand prize.

    “I think I can give the podium a go, for sure," she told Today's Savannah Guthrie. "I know some people say that I’m a dark horse, but I think I’m a little bit lighter in color.”

    Gold has already helped Team USA win bronze in the team event, delivering a superb free skate program on Feb. 9 that earned her highest international score in the event. But skating has long been an individual sport, and Gold is looking to grab another medal for herself.

    "I definitely think in singles I have a chance to medal; so do a lot of people," she told The Associated Press. "Who is going to leave everything out on the ice? The Olympics is about, 'This is what I have, go ahead and beat it.'"

    Gold won her first national championship in January in Boston with two strong programs. Working with Frank Carroll, who coached Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, Gold has improved exponentially this season.

    "I think the year is 2014 and it's a new Gracie," Gold said. "With Frank every day after I am done jumping, we just take time to appreciate the nuances and the music and connecting with the audience and judges and have that warmth with my skating, the things that light up the rink."

    She will need to continue that rapid growth at the games, because defending champion Yuna Kim and silver medalist Mao Asada are imposing opponents, due to skate 17th and 30th, respectively, in Wednesday's short program. Gold will skate in the 22nd position, and Russian whiz-kid Yulia Lipnitskaya right behind her in the 25th slot.

    "There are so many different variables, and the women's field is so good this year," the 18-year-old Gold said. "Yuna Kim and Asada and then all the new kids on the block."

    Gold gave everything she had at the national championships, edging out 15-year-old Polina Edmunds and 2010 Olympic fourth-place finisher Mirai Nagasu for first place. But Nagasu was left off the team for the top American skater, Ashley Wagner, who struggled in Boston but was given a spot because of her strong international record.

    While Wagner reboots from her disappointing scores in the team short program, Gold has taken over the spotlight. Unlike the days of Tonya and Nancy and its aftermath, when figure skating was front and center even in non-Olympic years, the sport rarely leaps into the limelight now. But this year's Sochi Games have had people paying attention to the lutz-and-loop crowd.

    Gold has leaped onto the scene the past two years. She and Wagner finished high enough at the 2013 world championships to ensure the American women would have the maximum three spots in the Sochi field. She didn't do much in the Grand Prix series, but came on spectacularly at nationals.

    "Going to nationals, I was not going to just participate, but to compete, going for the top spot, going for gold," she said. "I dedicated myself to that moment and I was able to hit it pretty well, and I am more than happy with that."

    Now, it's time to prove herself at the Olympics.

    "I remember a couple of years ago, I was watching my role models in the Olympics," Gold said. "And now to be that role model, it's so wonderful. You just remember why you do what you do. The passion in your sport is so important."