There’s something about TD Garden that brings out the best in Gracie Gold.
The multi-purpose arena in Boston is where the American captured her first senior national title back in 2014, the win that punched her ticket to the Sochi Olympics and effectively launched her star.
And it’s where on Thursday she skated the best short program of her career at the world championships, posting a season-best score of 76.43 to pace the field and move within touching distance of the podium – a result that would end a historic dry spell for American women.
The 20-year-old Gold, who skated to the Argentine tango piece El Choclo by Angel Villoldo, delivered a nearly flawless skate that included a triple lutz-triple toe combo, a triple flip, a double axel and two level-four spins.
“I’m just so happy, excited, proud and every emotion there could be,” said Gold, who finished ahead of the Russian skaters Anna Pogorilaya (73.98) and Evgenia Medvedeva (73.76). “I had a great time and trusted my training. The crowd today was truly exceptional. I felt supported all across the arena, really comfortable and really loved. To set a season best and personal best at worlds was really a magical moment.
“Everything fell into place. It felt like there was something magical in the arena.”
It’s been more than a decade since a female skater from the United States medalled at either the Olympics or worlds. Gold, who was born in Boston and lived for several years in the nearby suburb of Newton, appears well positioned to end the drought. And she’s not alone.
The veteran Ashley Wagner, skating to Hip Hip Chin Chin by Club des Belugas, came through with a rollocking, high-energy performance that opened with a difficult triple flip-triple toe loop and only took off from there. The three-time US national champion sits at fourth (73.16) entering Saturday’s free skate.
“I came in here with a plan and it’s about following through with that,” Wagner said. “A great short program isn’t going to do anything for me in the long program, so it’s just about separating the two and moving on.”
Also within striking distance of the podium are Russia’s Elena Radionova (71.70) and Japan’s Satoko Miyahara (70.72).
The third American competing in Thursday’s short program – Mirai Nagasu, an eleventh-hour replacement for the injured Polina Edmunds – also fed off the energy of the home crowd during her skate to Demons by Imagine Dragons.
The quality of Thursday’s short program was high across the board. Major mistakes were not to be found in the final groups with the exception of Japanese star Mao Asada, who fell while attempting a triple axel in her first appearance at worlds since winning it in 2014.
The last American women to medal at a world championships came in 2006, when Kimmie Meissner captured gold and Sasha Cohen bronze. The decade-long fallow period represents the country’s longest since the introduction of the Winter Olympics in 1924.
“We’re only halfway through, but I can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel that maybe the drought is ending,” Gold said. “And that would be amazing.”
This article was written by Bryan Armen Graham in Boston, for theguardian.com on Friday 1st April 2016 03.33 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010