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updated: 2/7/2012 1:16 PM

Suburban skater harbors Olympic dreams

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  • Gracie Gold, 16, trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

       Gracie Gold, 16, trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold learned to skate on frozen marshes in Massachusetts, but she didn't really become fascinated with the sport until she attended a friend's birthday party.

       Gracie Gold learned to skate on frozen marshes in Massachusetts, but she didn't really become fascinated with the sport until she attended a friend's birthday party.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold, 16, took first place last month in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on the junior level and will head to Belarus later this month for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She's been practicing at rinks in Glen Ellyn and Vernon Hills and living part-time in Elk Grove Village.

       Gracie Gold, 16, took first place last month in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on the junior level and will head to Belarus later this month for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She's been practicing at rinks in Glen Ellyn and Vernon Hills and living part-time in Elk Grove Village.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold, 16, left, and twin sister Carly train at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

       Gracie Gold, 16, left, and twin sister Carly train at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold, 16, trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn with Oleg Epstein, one of her coaches. Gold is from Springfield, but trains in the suburbs during the week. She recently won the gold medal on the junior level at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and later this month, she will be competing at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Belarus.

       Gracie Gold, 16, trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn with Oleg Epstein, one of her coaches. Gold is from Springfield, but trains in the suburbs during the week. She recently won the gold medal on the junior level at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and later this month, she will be competing at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Belarus.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Her coaches say Gracie Gold has what it takes to represent her country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. "It's my dream to be at the Olympics," she says. "It's every skater's dream."

       Her coaches say Gracie Gold has what it takes to represent her country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. "It's my dream to be at the Olympics," she says. "It's every skater's dream."
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Coach Alex Ouriashev says Gold has unlimited potential. "In my opinion, she has some of the best potential as a skater in the United States for the next three years," he said.

       Coach Alex Ouriashev says Gold has unlimited potential. "In my opinion, she has some of the best potential as a skater in the United States for the next three years," he said.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold, 16, center, and twin sister Carly, left, work with coach Oleg Epstein at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

       Gracie Gold, 16, center, and twin sister Carly, left, work with coach Oleg Epstein at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold says she has her eyes on the 2014 Winter Olympics.

       Gracie Gold says she has her eyes on the 2014 Winter Olympics.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gracie Gold, 16, trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

       Gracie Gold, 16, trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Figure skater Gracie Gold trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and The Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills. Her family spends part of each week living in a house they rent in Elk Grove Village so Gracie can take work with Chicago-area coaches.

       Figure skater Gracie Gold trains at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and The Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills. Her family spends part of each week living in a house they rent in Elk Grove Village so Gracie can take work with Chicago-area coaches.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

In figure skating, you have to go to where the coaches are if you want to improve.

And 16-year-old Gracie Gold has made quite a journey since having laced up a pair of skates eight years ago during a friend's birthday party at an ice rink.

Gold and her family have lived in two different cities named Springfield -- and now spend part of the week at a house they rent in Elk Grove Village -- so Gold can skate at ice rinks in Glen Ellyn and Vernon Hills.

It's there where she works with coaches on jumps, spins, stroking and edges -- all the essential elements of a sport in which she seems suited for success.

Like her name, Gold has already earned several medals that same color.

Last month, she took first place in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on the junior level, where she set a record for the highest score. Last October, she won the Junior Grand Prix in Estonia, when many international observers began taking notice of her.

Later this month, she heads to Belarus for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships as one of 12 members on Team USA.

Already, some observers around the sport are saying Gold has what it takes to represent her country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"In my opinion, she has some of the best potential as a skater in the United States for the next three years," said Alex Ouriashev, who coaches Gold at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and The Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills. "She's made phenomenal progress."

Gold and her twin sister Carly were born in Massachusetts, where mom Denise says she remembers taking both out at a young age to skate on frozen marshes. But neither daughter had skated in years until that birthday party for a friend in Springfield, Mo., where the Golds had moved.

"Gracie saw girls spinning on the ice and said she wanted to learn how to do that," Denise Gold said. "We didn't have any (future) plans at that birthday party."

Denise signed Gracie up for a "learn to skate" class and, soon enough, the coaches recommended she sign up for private lessons. By age 9, she was that good.

But almost immediately she needed more instruction, and coaches said Gold should take lessons in Springfield, Ill. For two years, the Golds traveled five hours each way between the two Springfields, before deciding to move to the Illinois capital permanently.

Still, coaches thought Gold would better be able to refine her skills in the Chicago area. Ouriashev, for example, specializes in coaching jumping -- Gold's specialty.

So, three years ago, Denise and her two daughters began making trips up north, staying at hotels during the week and going home for the weekend. About a year ago, the family started renting in the Northwest suburbs, though they still go home to Springfield on weekends, where dad Carl is an anesthesiologist.

Gold spends four days a week at the ice rinks -- about six hours each day. Half the time she's on the ice, practicing skating techniques with coaches. In between lessons, she does school work for online classes in which she is enrolled at the University of Missouri High School.

Oftentimes, she takes proctored exams at the Glen Ellyn Public Library.

It's all part of a commitment -- in fact, a passion, her mother says -- to pursue her dreams.

Gold says she's always thought about what it would be like to be at the Olympics. Now, others are talking about that possibility.

"I think I could, but it's hard to say," Gold said. "It's my dream to be at the Olympics. It's every skater's dream."

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