Gracie Gold’s father, Carl, is from Joplin, Mo., where her grandmother, Thelma, was a competitive roller skater.
At age 7 in Springfield, Mo., she took her first lessons on the ice in “Learn To Skate” classes at Jordan Valley Ice Park.
For a time she traveled to Kansas City Ice Center in Shawnee to train with Randy Brilliantine.
And like Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and other athletes with complicated travel schedules, she has Mizzou on her resume by way of the online University of Missouri High School program. She even gave its commencement speech — yes, in person — in 2015.
So the Show-Me State makes for a friendly and fine backdrop for Gold to start competition in the ladies short program of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday at the Sprint Center — not far from where world silver medalist Ashley Wagner learned to skate at Line Creek Community Center Ice Arena during the year or so her family was at Fort Leavenworth.
And maybe some sense of home will provide a platform for Gold, the 2014 and 2016 U.S. champion, to be rejuvenated after a decline that has jarred her the last few months as she was stranded in the fallout of a heartbreaking performance in the 2016 World Championships in Boston.
After seizing first place with a terrific short program there, she fell on the opening jump combination of her free skate and tumbled to fourth — then went as far as to call herself “embarrassed” and “ashamed” of a “tragic” skate and apologized to Boston and, in fact, the United States.
“I just never felt so disappointed in myself,” she said during a teleconference last week, later acknowledging that it was perhaps hard to explain why it would have such a devastating impact. “ ‘I fell down, and I got fourth in the world, and then I was really sad after …’
“It sounds absolutely ridiculous.”
In hindsight, she even goes as far as to say she was being “a baby” to hold on to something so long.
But it really wasn’t about just a lone setback.
It was about a belief system.
“I had trusted my training,” she said, “and really felt like I had done everything right.”
Imagine feeling as right and good and prepared as can be for something that means the world to you … and then having it go awry.
Suddenly, an unnerving sense of failure was confronting a career that had largely been soaring ever-upward for a 2014 Olympian who has shimmered on the cover of Sports Illustrated, juggled for Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” and been visible on commercials for Visa and United Airlines and about everywhere around the Sochi Games.
Some years ago, Gold embraced an expression you might have heard in the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:”
“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”
She perhaps never had to consider those words more than she has through a wobbly fall that included finishing fifth at Skate America, eighth in Trophee’ de France and a disconcerting sixth among lesser competition in the Golden Spin of Zagreb last month in Croatia.
“I love that quote,” she said Wednesday as she sat in the so-called kiss-and-cry at Sprint Center, where the senior championships will run Thursday through Sunday.
And she’s trying to live it, too.
“I’m excited to show people … that every down has an up,” said Gold, whose thoughtful candor befits her first name. “And that I’m … already coming back up. (And) that this isn’t the end.”
The way back has been haphazard.
Gold took some extra time off after last season, but it didn’t have quite the effect she might have hoped for.
Instead of it rebooting her system, she said, it just made her “more and more distant from the sport.”
Between that and the rust that accumulates from even stepping away slightly, she felt “less and less capable” and even like a shell of herself.
So after Zagreb, she turned back to her roots.
Not quite as far back as Springfield, Mo., from where the family moved in 2007 to Springfield, Ill.
While retaining coach Frank Carroll, she sought out former coach Alex Ouriashev, with whom she reportedly had not spoken since they stopped working together in 2013.
After initially being worried he hated her now and wondering if he’d even take her call, she cried when she first saw him again and felt like she was “stepping back in time.”
Theoretically, they worked on nothing but jumps for two weeks after she traveled to suburban Chicago just after Christmas.
But to hear her tell it, it did wonders for a broken heart, too.
As she went back to California to work with Carroll, it was with the feeling of having flipped a switch and “forgiving myself for failing.”
She has that “fire and spark” back as she begins competing here.
And with that comes the belief that just because the moment she thought was to be hers in Boston didn’t materialize doesn’t mean she missed the window.
It just means there are other ones waiting for her.
Because … it is not yet the end.
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
At the Sprint Center
Pairs short program, 4 p.m. (4:30-6:30 p.m. live on NBCSN)
Opening ceremony, 7:30 p.m., followed by ladies short program (8:30-11 p.m. live on NBCSN)
Short dance, 5 p.m. (5-7 p.m. live on NBCSN)
Men’s short program, 7:30 p.m. (7:30-11 p.m. live on UniHD)
Pairs free skate and free dance, groups 1 and 2, 10 a.m.
Pairs free skate, groups 3 and 4, and free dance, group 3, 1:15 p.m. (2-5 p.m. live on NBC)
Ladies free skate, 6 p.m. (7-10 p.m. live on NBC)
Men’s free skate, 1 p.m. (3-5 p.m. live on NBC)