Figure skater Gracie Gold is learning to overcome the vagaries of international travel and major competitions.
She spent two days in Minsk, Belarus waiting for her luggage to arrive.
Then she had a 4:45 A.M. wakeup call for practice before Friday's short program at the World Junior Figure Championships in Minsk because her limited international resume had put her in the first group of 31 competitors.
The result? Gold, the reigning U.S. junior champion who trains in the Chicago suburbs, wound up second to the latest Russian phenom, 13-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia.
Gold, 16, had 58 points to 63.09 for Lipnitskaia, the reigning Junior Grand Prix champion. Adelina Sotnikova of Russia was third at 56.57, with Christina Gao of the U.S. fifth at 52.66.
"I thought it went pretty well," Gold said via telephone from Minsk. "I know I could have skated better, but for my first big international competition, I was very happy."
Gold had wobbly landings on two jumps but held on and got positive grades for all seven elements in the short program. Her relatively low component scores (most under six) reflected a tense performance.
"I was nervous going into the program," she said. "But after I did the lutz (last of her three triple jumps), I knew I had skated cleanly and that it was stable and a good job. Really, that's all I was looking for.
"I could have performed better on my spins and jumps. But for my first (world championship), I'm not necessarily looking to medal."
Although her skates were not in the delayed luggage, Gold was left to cope with the nine-hour time difference in the clothes she wore on the plane - a black t-shirt, jeans and Ugg boots - until she borrowed jackets and pants from other skaters and then went on a shopping expedition.
Gold, whose full-time home is in Springfield,Ill., had seemingly come from nowhere this season after failing to qualify for junior nationals last year. A series of strong performances at small summer events, where her jumps dazzled judges, earned Gold one assignment on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, but even winning that event was not enough to get her a higher seed for the short program.
Despite assertions that skating order means little under the new scoring system, judges still are less inclined to give high component (performance) scores to the first groups of skaters in a competition. Lipnitskaia, in the final group, clearly deserved her placement, with more secure jumps, better spins and higher component scores than Gold, for whom the artistic side - especially transitions - remains a relatively weak part of her skating.
Gold is in the final group for Saturday's free skate. And she is in good position for a medal.
"I'm thinking about it (a medal)," she said, "but mostly I am just trying to put out a good skate and put my name on the map, make a splash. If I do medal, it's amazing."