SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Spinning uneasily through the air on her opening triple lutz in Wednesday's short program, Gracie Gold wondered, "Is this my Olympic moment? I'm going to be on my butt?"
The U.S. champion gritted out the landing, just barely, then had to decide whether to try to complete her triple-triple combination. As she described it later, she thought to herself: "No, this is what the Olympics are about. It's not playing it safe with a double toe or a plain triple lutz. It's about doing it."
She did, holding on to the triple toe loop, and now Gold is in fourth heading into Thursday's free skate. She's 5.49 points behind third-place Carolina Kostner, in striking distance of a medal if any of the three leaders falter.
It was a strong night for the American women, with two-time U.S. champ Ashley Wagner finishing sixth and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds seventh in her senior international debut. If none of them medal, it would be the first time since 1936 that no American man or woman finished on the podium in singles at an Olympics.
The enormity of the moment hit Gold when she woke up from a nap midday and started laying out her gear to head to the rink. Then came the oddest of distractions: coach Frank Carroll had what she called "the most horrible nosebleed I've ever seen." He stepped away for about a half-hour before she skated so the teenager in the blood red dress wouldn't be sidetracked by the blood gushing from his nose.
But little fazes the 18-year-old Gold anymore — not since she started working with Carroll in September.
"To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost but stare fear in the face is what I'm all about now," she said.
Gold also learned from another Carroll pupil, Kazakhstan's Denis Ten, who persevered through two imperfect programs in the men's event to earn just enough points for the bronze medal.