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 today’s free skate. She’s 5.49 points behind Italy’s Carolina Kostner for third place, in striking distance of a medal if any of the three leaders falter.
Defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea won the short program. Kim scored 74.92 points, edging Russia Adelina Sotnikova’s total of 74.64.
It was a strong night for the American women, with two-time U.S. champ Ashley Wagner finishing sixth and San Jose 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.
Wagner earned 65.21 and Edmunds 61.04.
Edmunds achieved one of her Olympic goals earlier in the day when U.S. men’s hockey player Joe Pavelski, who stars for her hometown Sharks, came over to introduce himself in the athletes’ village cafeteria. Then she went out and skated cleanly.
Waiting for her marks, she clutched a stuffed lion and elephant given to her by her classmates at Mitty High School and her rink’s synchronized team. The skater who looked so calm on the ice is a kid after all.
“I just kind of try to stay in the moment,” she said, “and just remind myself that ice is ice.”