Introducing Gracie Gold – the Ultimate “Get Up” Story

Coach Gracie Gold and I are all smiles as I exit the ice with my props after my Light Entertainment Program

There are several other links toward the end of this blog with other inspiring figure skating stories, please do explore them.

Though I am diversity and career development consultant and trainer, many of my blog readers and clients know of my love of figure skating and my story of starting my own figure skating career at age 59. Several of them have encouraged me to even add a figure skating page on my website and enjoy hearing about my own skating journey.

In a recent “virtual breakfast” meeting with one of my favorite peers (Carolyn Naseer – read about her own innovate business – link to blog) that we did via Zoom instead of in person due to the CoronaVirus, I told her about my recent East Coast Adult Figure Skating Sectionals and being able to secure 2-time US Figure Skating Champion Gracie Gold as my coach. After sharing some photos online and telling her a little about Gracie’s journey, Carolyn she encouraged me to write this blog.

Gracie Gold’s help was instrumental in me winning my first East Coast Championships gold medal.

Gracie Gold is such a positive coach with excellent technical skills and an encouraging demeanor who helped me win my first Eastern Sectionals gold medal. My favorite photo (at the top of this blog) from Eastern Sectionals was a candid shot showing the pure joy on both our faces after I was getting off the ice with all my props following my Light Entertainment program.

What makes Gracie Gold so special? In figure skating circles, most people are familiar with Gracie’s story. After winning two US figure skating titles and attending the Olympics, her life took a difficult turn. Two and a half years ago and reeling from multiple traumatic events on and off the ice, including gaining 40 pounds, Gracie, then 22, entered a 45-day program at the Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona, to address an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.

There are multiple stories that you can google and find about the details of Gracie’s struggles (here is one from The Guardian)

And then Gracie did the nearly impossible. At the highest levels of figure skating, people simply do not come back to compete after being off the ice so long and getting older in “figure skating years.” It just does not happen. But Gracie, filled with her love of figure skating showed tremendous grit and determination to start over again, and she worked her way up for the bottom, including having to compete at two smaller regional events to even qualify to compete at US Nationals.

Gracie finished 12th. Let’s put this in perspective; Gracie came back to become the 12th best female skater in the entire United States! When Gracie won her gold medals at past US Championships, people stood and applauded because they loved her skating. This year at Nationals, Gracie received tremendous standing ovations because they loved Gracie. In one of Gracie’s favorite photos published by US Figure Skating as she kneels on the ice at the conclusion of her program; if you look closely, you can see me there in the first row middle of the photo standing and applauding next to my mother seated in the white jacket.

One of US Figure Skating’s signature themes is “We Get Up,” that skating, like life, is difficult. But when you fall on the hard ice, just as you fall in life, you need to pick yourself up and move on. Gracie is indeed the ultimate “get up story.” And I count myself blessed to have met and worked with this outstanding young woman.

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Eric Sjoberg is still excelling! With his mother in the stands at 2020 Nationals. At the junior level, Eric climbed from sixth place after the short program to win second after his nearly perfect long program.

Here is another inspiring short story of a skater, Lessons in Character from a Young Teen, about Eric Sjoberg, who overcame challenges with determination instead of quitting when things got really tough.

Two years ago, I wrote a series of “Get Up” blogs which included people getting up from challenges both on and off the ice.

Author Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz has written a series of books about figure skaters young and old who overcame various difficulties. Here is my blog about Joanne and her books.

And finally, my own get up story.

Thanks for reading!

Lessons in Character from a Young Teen

2016 US Figure Skating Nationals Novice Champion and subject of this blog Eric Sjoberg (left) and Junior Champion Tomoki Hiwatashi (right) at the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast following the competition.

2016 US Figure Skating Nationals Novice Champion and subject of this blog Eric Sjoberg (left) and Junior Champion Tomoki Hiwatashi (right) at the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast following the competition.

How would you handle dropping from second place to second from the bottom?

OK, many of my blog readers and followers know that I like to add some items now and then about my favorite pastime, figure skating. When I retired and started my own business, I had the time and flexibility to start attending the US Figure Skating Nationals, which I have done the past seven years. And then at age 59, I decided to take up the sport myself and am training to compete with older adults. (See my blog “Finding a New Passion at Age 59.”)

And not only do I attend the “senior” events (these are the people we see on television and who go to the Olympics), but I stay the entire week to see the young up and coming skaters who will be our Olympians in 2018 or 2022.
Below the senior level are the junior and novice divisions.

The novice skaters are most often between 12 – 15 years old and are the top 12 who finish the top four of their sectionals in the east, central and west United States.

One of my favorites is a young skater named Eric Sjoberg, who I first saw in 2014 when he was one of the youngest competitors in novice at age 12. This small 5 foot tall guy had wonderful choreography and beautiful hand movements and won the silver medal. It was also fun sitting in the stands next to his excited and nervous parents.

I looked forward to seeing Eric the next year as he competed again in novice. He grew 8 inches in one year and was having a hard time adjusting to his new body. He struggled in his programs and instead of finishing one from the top like the previous year, he finished one from the bottom – yes – 11th out of 12.

Most of us would probably quit right then. It is very disappointing to go from the top to the bottom. I spoke to him and his mother Sandra afterwards and encouraged Eric to keep up his training and not to give up because he had such a natural talent.

And Eric did not. He showed great character and fortitude as a young teen and worked harder than ever the next year. I came to US Nationals in St. Paul, MN in January of this year, anticipating what Eric would show us this year. His long program was far superior to all competitors and he won the gold medal in Novice. He adjusted to his growth spurt and completed seven triple jumps in his program with a new maturity and power. Link here to watch his program on youtube. (I am the fan that threw the dog he is holding in kiss and cry as he awaits his score.)

So we can we learn from Eric? First, to not give up when we go from the top of the heap to the bottom. Instead work even harder with renewed determination. And second, as things change, adjust and build on our new assets. Eric was able to use his new height and weight to add strong athletic jumps to his earlier artistic flare to deliver an excellent competitive program.

As Eric continues to work hard, I look forward to seeing this young athlete representing the US on the world stage and Olympics in future years.