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Gracie Gold

Figure skater Gracie Gold, 18, the daughter of two high school athletes, is known for her fast moves, explosive jumps, and graceful spins on the ice, but she’s just as strong and poised in life as she is outside the rink.

After dealing with a disappointing finish in September at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, Gold and her family quit working with her longtime coach Alex Ouriashev and moved from their native Massachusetts to California, while still working toward her high school diploma.

Now the East Coast native-turned-California girl is gearing up for Sochi. Last year, Gold won a silver medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and finished sixth at the World Figure Skating Championships. She also placed third at Skate Canada in October.

As one of the best young figure skaters in the world, Gold has a real chance at medaling in her events at the Olympics this year. She’ll hit the rink for a short program (an almost 3-minutes long routine that includes three jumping passes, three spins, and a footwork sequence) and a 4-minute free skate, where she’ll be judged on her technical skill, interpretation, choreography, and overall performance.

“It’s been a long road; I’ve been skating for 10 years, but I think watching the 2010 Vancouver Olympics is where my Olympic dream really began,” Gold told SHAPE. “The training days are long and hard—I spend three to four hours on the ice, I take ballet, I have warmups, I have warm-downs...there’s a whole process.”

Gold’s biggest hurdle at the Olympics won’t be the technical stuff—she’s got that down pat. It’ll be her confidence. She took a fall at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in her short program, after which Gold told NBC, “There was a lot of expectation, a lot of talk, a lot of pressure at Nationals. I really had to work on putting it out of my mind. In the short program I got really nervous, like stopped breathing and it just…didn't happen. I was very upset at myself, but in a sense, that sort of put some fire in my belly.” She came back the next day to land seven clean triple jumps in her long program and win a spot at the Figure Skating World Championships.

Now, Gold is determined to face the pressure of the Olympics head-on. “I’ve been blessed with pretty good genetics...both my parents were athletes and are pretty well-built, but I think it’s been my grit and my competitive attitude that’s really helped me achieve a lot in life, especially in sports,” she says.

In an attempt to improve her game, Gold made the surprising decision to switch coaches just five months before the Olympics, telling reporters at a recent USOC media summit that she and Ouriashev stopped working together when they realized they couldn’t work out their “relationship issues.” Currently, she’s working with Frank Carrolll, who trained Michelle Kwan. Additionally, Gold has been working with sports psychologists to boost her confidence.

It remains to be seen if Gold will bring home a medal from Sochi, though with her auspicious last name, how could she not be optimistic? And yes, she’s heard that joke before (sorry Gracie--couldn’t resist!). With a strong season behind her and a solid long program set to Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty,” Gold has a good feeling about her first Olympics.

“Just being in the Olympic Village and being among the top athletes in the world is amazing,” she says.  —Alanna Nuñez

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