Springfield, IL (KSDK)
- We're getting an inside look into the years of training that helped shape Gracie Gold into an Olympian. For years, Gracie trained with the Springfield, Illinois Figure Skating Club.
Toni Hickey is a coach with the club. She knew Gracie when she was just a young girl with a big dream. Even then, Toni says there was something special about her.
"It's something just very few people have and it's an ability to make you want to watch them. And they really connect with you. But it's not something you could teach, some kids just have it," said Hickey.
So, when Toni first started coaching Gracie in 2006, she knew Gold had a good chance of one day representing Team USA.
"I think we all saw it and knew she had the potential to do it," said Hickey.
Especially since Hickey says she has never seen someone with so much drive and will to succeed. She says Gracie would practice until her routines were perfect. So for Gracie, it wasn't technique or skill she had trouble learning, but rather the ability to calm her nerves.
"She's extremely smart and she's a thinker. And sometimes in skating that can be a disadvantage because there are so many things going on in your head," said Hickey.
And as Gracie's coach, Toni could tell right away if it was going to be a problem. It's something she still watches for.. now, on national television.
"Sometimes there's just a look that takes me back and I think 'Oh she's not feeling real secure.' And then sometimes you can just tell it's like a tunnel vision they get, and you want them to have that," said Hickey.
That focused and confident look is the one Toni says she saw on Gracie's face right before she won the national championship. Soon after, Toni got a call from Gracie's mom.
"[She said] 'I'm happy happy happy happy!'" said Toni.
Now Gracie's heading to Sochi, living that big dream she had as a little girl. And Toni says she's ready.
"She had obstacles like every champion does. She picked herself up, she kept going, and it seems like now she has the mental capability to really put it all together," said Toni.