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!

Four Years Later – My Journey as a Competitive Adult Figure Skater, Including Five Key Lessons

Former award winner and young skater Katelyn Mitchell of the Central Carolina Skating Club presenting me with a “Get Up Champion” award.

Just before turning 59 years old, I made a major decision which has greatly impacted my life for the good. As a passionate figure skating fan, I decided that I actually wanted to get off the couch and try skating for myself. (See my blog I wrote back then – “Finding a new passion at age 59.”) I bought skates, secured a coach, and began this journey. And it has given me tremendous joy.

And now I look back. Recently at my local figure skating club (The Central Carolina Skating Club) meeting, I was presented one of the inaugural “Get Up Champions” Awards processed through US Figure Skating. I was so touched by the write up my club’s officers submitted:

On behalf of the Central Carolina Skating Club Board of Governors, I nominate Stanley Kimer as a Get Up Champion. Stan is a relative newcomer to skating and our skating club, but he brings so much to the sport! It’s truly inspiring to see how he faces this challenging sport with humor, intelligence and outright joy.

I do love to entertain people while on the ice, including stripping down to a tank top to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”

Paula McKinley (my coach) and he create skating routines that can make even a curmudgeon smile – the joy of skating and entertaining people shines through brightly. The kids welcome him when he participates in summer camp or Bridge classes with them. One little girl told me that she thinks he’s the hardest-working skater on the ice because ‘it’s so hard for him to skate!’

It’s true: skating is hard, and the ice is hard, which resulted in a fractured hip back in 2016, causing him to withdraw from the Peach Open Adult competition and delaying his passing Bronze to compete at Adult Sectionals / Nationals. He’s on the ‘Get Up’ trail again – – no spoilers on his new routine.

Stan’s a ‘lemonade for life’ kind of guy, though: since he couldn’t skate at Nationals in Wake Forest, he volunteered as an ice monitor! He also volunteers at our Club throughout the year and comes to every meeting / award event, when he’s not traveling to watch competitions or attend Champs Camp. We love playing ‘Where’s Stan?’ and finding him in the stands or group photos.

One of his vital contributions to the sport is his blog series on the theme of ‘Get Up.’ He highlighted what most adults face in skating: life gets in the way, sets you back and throws obstacles in your path. As Scott Hamilton says, ‘you just have to get up and keep going.’ Stan definitely gets up twice for every falls he takes.”

I was so honored and truly touched by this marvelous write up. Thank you, Central Carolina Skating Club!

And now for five quick key lessons:

1) Passion! There is nothing more wonderful than pursuing something you are passionate about. Getting on the ice is the favorite part of my day.

There is no place I would rather be than on the ice!

2) Support! A supportive community helps assure success. The Central Carolina Skating Club, the Adult Competitive Figure Skating Facebook group and the US Figure Skating Association are all so supportive of adult skaters, and provide frequent inspiration and assistance.

3) Coaching! Learning a difficult sport (or anything difficult) requires excellent competent teaching and coaching, and I found the perfect coach in Paula McKinley. Read my past blog on the importance of coaching.

4) Hard work! Figure Skating is not easy, especially for an old dude like me. I need to really focus and dedicate myself to the necessary hard work to grow and improve.

5) Commitment! And figure skating is a many year life-long journey. You cannot skate for a few months and then think you know it all. I will likely be learning and growing new skills for the next 20 years. And that excites me.

Again, I thank my blog readers, my coach, my skating club, my skating friends and the US Figure Skating Association for all your encouragement and support along this fantastic journey!