Gracie Gold stood on a riser 10 yards from the ice surface at the Sprint Center, in an area where athletes who have just finished skating talk to the media. The music for the skater who followed threatened to drown out Gold's words, even as she spoke into a microphone.
Her upper lip trembled a few times, but Gold's voice never cracked as she faced the music again in a season when her skating has struck one sour note after another.
After winning two titles and finishing second twice at the U.S. championships the past four years, Gold had just done a free skate with mistakes on six of her seven jumping passes. She doubled planned triples, singled a planned double, landed one jump on two feet and threw an invalid jump onto the end of a combination.
"Obviously," she said, "I had a very terrible program at the national championships."
Gold was ninth in the free skate, fifth in the short program and sixth overall. She was 35 points from first, 18 from third.
She held her head high, graciously and honestly answering painful questions, but her spirits were low. For the fourth time in four competitions this season, she was trying to understand how the bottom fell out, how she had stumbled to the middle of the pack after being at or near the top of U.S. skating for five years.