Tuktamysheva tops Skate America women's short program, Gracie Gold third
It has been quite a year for Gracie Gold.
She won her first U.S. championship, collected a team bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics and even got to bake cookies with Taylor Swift.
Her performance at Skate America on Saturday? Well, that had a few hiccups.
Gold took third in the short program with 60.81 points, behind Russians Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (67.41) and Elena Radionova (65.57) due, in part, to some mistakes on her triple toe landing and a spin.
"It wasn't my best performance, but I am still very happy with it," Gold said. "It is tough to skate last after two wonderful competitors. In a competition like this, I can't give any points away and make mistakes like I did on my spin and the small error on the triple toe landing. I'm going to have to really fight in the long program to move up in the ranks."
Tuktamysheva grabbed the women's lead after Yuka Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia took the pairs short program. The free skates are Sunday.
Japan's Tatsuki Machida took a commanding lead into Saturday night's men's free skate after dominating the short program on Friday, with American Jeremy Abbott second and Chicago-area product Jason Brown third. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates held the top spot going into the free dance.
For Gold, a few mistakes were costly. And when she fell off on a spin, that drew a reaction from her coach and choreographer.
"Missing a combination spin in a short program, point-wise, is very unfortunate," she said. "But emotionally, it's more kind of funny embarrassing -- a little bit embarrassing -- to do such a good program and then (mess up) on such a little thing. It's just a camel spin. Camel spins, I feel, 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."
She promised: "I will be doing fabulous spins tomorrow."
Those mistakes aside, Gold was happy overall with her performance. She also enjoyed skating in familiar territory.
Gold lived in Illinois and trained in the Chicago suburbs before moving to Los Angeles to train with coach Frank Carroll. But it was Tuktamysheva taking the lead.
A few years ago, Tuktamysheva looked as if she might be on her way to becoming one of the top skaters.
She struggled in recent years adjusting to growth spurts. But at 18, Tuktamysheva is in position to win her fourth competition this year.
"My family and my friends and people close to me always support me," she said. "I never even thought about quitting figure skating because I always felt I wanted to finish what I have been doing on a high note. To justify all the work over the years that I have put into it so that it was not in vain."
In the pairs, it was a strong start for Kavaguti and Smirnov. They took fourth at the 2010 Olympics, but were non-qualifiers for Sochi this year with Smirnov recovering from knee surgery.
They scored 69.16 points, with China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang second (62.38) and Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.08) third.
Kavaguti and Smirnov are glad to be back competing after Smirnov was sidelined. He was injured in a fall at a competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, a year ago, but he's back after having surgery in Germany and going through more than six months of recovery.
"It was a very big surgery," he said.
Recently, there was another big event in his life -- a happier event. His wife gave birth to a boy less than two weeks ago, and while he and Kavaguti awaited their score, the camera caught Smirnov cradling his arms as if he was holding a baby.