Team USA skaters look to make mark on world's stage

Gracie Gold practices this week in Sochi.
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American Gracie Gold is making her mark in Sochi.

Gold is one of three Americans competing in ladies' figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

Her name is like a heroine in a novel. A storybook ending would have the 18-year-old head home to Boston with a medal. There is even a subplot.

"She is a very heated rival of Yulia Lipnitskaya, the Russian favorite here," said 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek. "They're both just out of juniors, this is their first year and I think this is the first time they are going to meet since their little rivalry was going on in juniors. That is an interesting storyline, too."

But for Gold, this is real life and she's eager to respond to critics of her youth or lack of experience on the world stage.

"If you look at the Russian figure skater, Yulia Lipnitskaya, you know youth is definitely in her favor. She doesn't even have a spine, she is flexible and she gets on the ice and she gets off. But I think there are pros and cons to being a veteran and young, so I think we are right where we are supposed to be," Gold said.

Whenever a competition is judged, you have to consider the intangibles. Gold could captivate the panel with an inspired performance.

"There's just something so effervescent about her skating and the speed, the way that she can really turn the audience on and, you know, having a competitor who is Russian, that is going to be hard for her, but I think that the audience will really get behind her, as well," said 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie.

"In the short program, I am really trying to add the artistry element and add ending step sequence. It's about the footwork and ending spin. I am really looking forward to doing that on the Olympic stage," Gold said.

Also for Team USA, Ashley Wagner is determined not to be cast as a minor character.

"I am powerful, I am fierce and that is really what I am trying to show people, I am trying to bring a little bit of edge to figure skating," she said.

Although Gold and Wagner may be the best of Team USA, there is a general thought in Sochi that they are not the best in the world. When they are talking about the potential for the podium, the talk goes to the South Korean, Japanese, Russian or even Italian skaters.