Olympic medalist Gracie Gold brings her expertise to Mitchell skaters
More than 60 skaters participated in weekend camp
An Olympian sharing her skills and knowledge of figure skating in Mitchell, South Dakota? Believe it.
Gracie Gold brought her Road to Gold figure skating training camp to Mitchell for three days over the weekend, instructing 64 skaters from five different states at the Mitchell Activities Center.
Gold, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and a two-time U.S. champion in 2014 and 2016, has made it part of her coaching mission to bring high-level instruction to places that might otherwise not have the opportunity.
“I don’t believe there’s a market too small to receive this kind of instruction and training,” she said after wrapping up a meet-and-greet with a number of the participants. “I just feel like everyone should have as much access to skating as possible.”
When she was getting started in figure skating in Springfield, Missouri, Gold said, she was skating in an area that didn’t have extensive coaching and resources. For the last three years, she has held these types of camps, teaching young figure skaters of all skill levels.
Gold has made a few recent trips to the Upper Midwest. She was in Bismarck, North Dakota in May 2019 and in Watertown in March 2020. The camp ranged in price from $75 to $225 dollars depending on the number of times practicing and the availability of additional private lesson time available as well.
She said what she relishes most is having a skater who has worked on a particular skill for the last six months or a year, and then have them break through and execute it.
“Figure skating can teach you so much about yourself and learning about determination and character and confidence,” Gold said. “We’re teaching skating and skills but there are so many life lessons in this sport.”
The idea to bring Gold to Mitchell was from Jessica Steidl, who leads the Mitchell Skating Academy. The program didn’t exist until 2015, with Steidl helping to create a figure skating club in Mitchell from scratch and this weekend marked the first opportunity for the community to bring in a generational talent to town to train skaters.
One of the reasons Steidl reached out to Gold is because of the relatively few opportunities figure skaters have had in the last year to get high-level training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to South Dakota, skaters in Mitchell this weekend were from Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.
“For the last year, there really haven’t been a lot of opportunities, especially for skaters from other states," Steidl said. "And South Dakota hasn’t been shut down, so there was that opportunity and you want to give these kids a reason to work for the year.”
“She makes me want to do more figure skating,” said Megan Steidl, age 9, who is Jessica’s daughter and was working on her technique with Gold as the camp got underway on Friday.
Also on hand to assist Gold was Geoff Varner, an international figure skating medalist, and Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. Champion.
Steidl said most of the Mitchell skaters haven’t had a competitive meet all year and the timing of the camp is good for local skaters: Mitchell hosts its annual Palace Ice Festival competition from April 16-18 at the MAC.
“The reality is that we don’t get this type of talent in Mitchell,” Steidl said. “For a lot of these skaters, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, because not everyone has the ability to travel elsewhere for this type of coaching.”
Gold, 25, had slowed down her competitive skating career in recent years, as she has been open about her struggles with mental health, depression and anxiety. But since 2020, she has shown she still has competitive aspirations. She was 13th at the U.S. Championships this year, where she was the oldest skater in the women’s field.
But coaching, she said, gives her an ability to travel the country and work with a variety of athletes and students, which has become very rewarding to her.
“I’ve always been a fan of meeting new people and interacting with them, and this has been a great outlet for me,” she said.