American figure skating has found its new star, and her name is Gracie Gold.
The 17-year-old burst on to the scene with a second-place finish at the 2013 United States Figure Championships last month.
Gold only managed to finish ninth in the short program, but her free skate absolutely blew the competition away. Her free skate score of 132.49 was over 11 points better than second-placed Ashley Wagner. It wasn't enough to overcome her poor short program, as Wagner won the overall gold on the strength of her free skate and short program combined.
Although she finished runner-up to Wagner, it will be Gold getting the last laugh at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Every Olympics, American fans scream out to have that one athlete who everybody can get behind. In terms of women's sports, those fan favorites come in figure skating during the Winter Olympics. Through their triumphs on the ice, the likes of Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan, Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan all became household names immediately after the Olympics.
Gold has a great chance to join that list of American medal winners.
Just by virtue of her name, Gold is a sportswriter's dream. There are so many puns to be had with her last name and her pursuit of a gold medal in Sochi. The media will be all to happy to pounce on Gold's story and share it with the public.
Much of Gold's future for the next Olympics will hinge on her performance at the 2013 World Championships in March. With a good performance, she's all but a lock in Sochi, as she's already demonstrated in the free skate the kind of talent she possesses.
The timing of Gold's emergence couldn't be better either, for the skater or U.S. figure skating as a whole.
For the U.S., there's plenty of time to see how Gold could handle pressure-packed situations. By the time the Olympics do roll around in a year, it will be readily apparent how good Gold is and what she could accomplish.
For Gold, that's more than enough time to try and acclimate herself to becoming the newest star of American figure skating. She's not going to immediately be the focus of the sports media just a few weeks after her breakout performance.
She now has over a year to deal with the weight of expectations and what it will feel like to be one of the country's prominent figure skaters.
Just get used to hearing Gold's name. By this time next year, she'll be one of the faces of the American Olympian team.
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