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Gracie Brings Golden Glow to Westchester Skating Academy

by Liz Leamy

Gracie Gold visits Westchester Skating Academy, seen here with several WSA coaches

Balloon messages greet Gracie at WSA (photo by Alyssa Cambria)

Gracie with writer Liz Leamy

(15 August 2016)  Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion, showed what a force she in the sport when she made a visit to the Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, New York last month.

Gold, the reigning U.S. titlist, stopped in to visit more than 100 young skaters, many of who compete in and around the North Atlantic, New England and even South Atlantic region, at this busy New York metropolitan area training center in July and was a hit on every front, to say the least.

Haley Ruotolo (left), WSA Assistant Skating Director with Sophia Derasmo (7 1/2) who scored an autographed photo.

During Gold’s day-long visit to this popular two-arena venue, the charismatic Los Angeles-based soon-to-be 21-year-old (her birthday is August 17th) spent most of her time chatting, skating, answering questions and hanging out with athletes, coaches and others attending this event.

By all accounts, everyone at this event seemed excited at the prospect of spending a day with the ever-gracious Gold, as they could be seen walking around and also chatting, laughing and getting their pictures taken with her.

“I’m really excited because I got to meet Gracie and talk to her,” said Claudia Lee, a six-year old from Armonk, New York, who is on the U.S. Figure Skating Learn-to Skate Basic 8 skill level. “She was nice and inspired me a lot.”/p>

For Gold, being at Westchester Skating Academy was a terrific experience in all regards.

“This is super exciting for me, everyone has been so nice and I’ve loved interacting with all of the kids,” said Gold, who had been in Tokyo the week prior. “It’s also a lot of fun to be on the opposite Coast, I love New York.”

Gold also said she liked being involved like this with a summer skating camp event, saying that this season is an important learning and training period for the athletes, especially since most of them are off from school, which affords them such a great deal of time to concentrate on learning and developing all of their skills as well as their programs.

“It’s really cool to drop in here and see so many skaters,” said Gold, a Chicago-area native who has been training at the Toyota Sports Center in Los Angeles for three years. “The summer is a time to work hard and be high energy.”

Alyssa Cambria, a Westchester Skating Academy coach who lives in the Bronx said it was great to have had Gold visit.

“She’s very sweet and is really a great person,” said Cambria. “Having her here is definitely an inspiration to all of the skaters, as well as everyone else.”

In various Q&A sessions with the skaters during her visit Gold shared ...

Skaters she admires:

- Michelle Kwan
- Sasha Cohen
- Sarah Hughes, especially her gold-medal winning performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics

Thoughts on Los Angeles:

- An “amazing” city that she said she really loves. She also likes how many different parts to the city there are, with the beaches, Hollywood and business areas.

Goals this (2016/17) season:

- Would like to get third U.S. title

Favorite jump/jumps:

- Triple toe, triple flip, triple Lutz

Favorite spin:

- Layback spin

How did Gold start skating?

- She went to a birthday party (in Missouri, where she and her family had lived when she was a young girl) at a rink and saw two girls jumping, spinning and having fun and asked her mom to sign her up for lessons.

What was it like to go to the Olympics (in 2014)?

- It was “surreal,” and a “big emotional thing.” Gold said she “was on cloud nine during that whole time throughout January and February.”

- Sochi was “very cool.” Located on the Black Sea, it is a place Gold described as one that had a very warm climate with palm trees.

- The Olympics were like entering “a different world.” For Gold, the whole experience was “incredible.”

Favorite routine (so far):

- Firebird free skate from the 2016 season

Favorite dress/dresses:

- Blue dress that she wore for 2014 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ free skate program. (The dress was “so comfortable.”)

- A red velvet dress with gold crystals that she had worn as a young girl. She wore it for a program with music from the Harry Potter film soundtrack, which she said was the second program she had gotten as a competitor. (“That dress made me feel like royalty,” she said.)

What is she working on now?

- A new program with a lot of jumps in the second half.

Favorite medal:

- The bronze medal from the 2014 Olympic team competition. (It is hung up at her home in Redondo Beach, along with all of her other medals. She describes it as “heavy and beautiful with a sparkling crystal in the center.”)

Favorite gold medals:

- The 2016 and 2014 U.S. gold medals, along with the 2012 U.S. Junior Ladies title.

Favorite music:

- Firebird. It had “a lot of power and energy behind it,”  she said.

Favorite singers/bands:

- Taylor Swift (who is a friend of Gold’s.)

- Halsey

Favorite hairstyles:

- A straight-back braid for practice

- A low side bun or high bun to compete.

Training schedule:

- Three to four hours on ice daily/ Monday-Friday and usually one weekend day. In the summers, Gold said she practices two and a half hours a day.

Some suggestions on practicing spins and jumps:

- “It’s good to practice a spin with a jump to get used to the feeling when you do them in a program.”

On having less than stellar practice days:

- “You can learn a lot from those days. It can be hard sometimes and we’ve all been there, you just can’t make it personal.”

One of the most challenging junctures Gold has gone through in skating:

- 2011, a year Gold said she had grown five and a half inches and learned to regain consistency in some of her technical elements.

(She championed her way through this impasse most effectively, however, as she valiantly claimed the 2012 U.S. junior ladies title the following season.)

On what skating means to Gold:

- “I could never picture my life without skating and feel like there is so much left [for me to do].”

On seeing figure skating for the first time ever as a child:

- “I had just moved to Missouri [with my family] and was at my best friend’s birthday party. I saw a couple of girls jumping around and spinning and I had never seen anything like it before.”

- “To see this new world of figure skating was so cool and I wanted to do it.”