Gracie Gold Became a Winner by Learning How to Fail

Five-Ring Circus
A Blog About the Olympic Games
Feb. 19 2014 5:04 PM

Gracie Gold Became a Winner by Learning How to Fail

Gracie Gold
Gracie Gold: a huge failure.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Lately, parenting experts are warning against hollow cheerleading. Excessive empty praise makes children anxious and risk-averse, and unable to cope when things don’t go their way. The solution, argues Dan Griffin in Slate, is to teach parents and children “to succeed a little less and fail a lot more in the service of a greater goal, developing character.” Griffin, a clinical psychologist, says the hardest part of his job is convincing the parents to sit back and watch the train wrecks, and to trust that, ultimately, their child won’t fall apart.

Hanna Rosin Hanna Rosin

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

If that’s true, Griffin’s best role model may be figure skater Gracie Gold. According to the New York Times, Gold was saved by learning to fail.

As a teenager, Gold was the stereotype of a perfectionist figure skater. But at some point she became spooked by the fear that she wouldn’t make it to the Olympics. She’d make a mistake at practice, and fall apart. Then, last year, she turned it around.


Her secret? Gold’s new coach Frank Carroll convinced her that failure was nothing to be afraid of—that, in fact, it was something to embrace. When Gracie fretted to him that she might not make it to the Olympics, he would calmly tell her that he hadn’t made it to the Olympics and he’d still lived a good life.

Carroll convinced her that her perfectionism was getting in the way, and that letting in the prospect of failure would in fact let her succeed. “It’s not the perfect skater that wins, it’s the best skater,” he told her. Gold began to relax. Reporters started to describe her as confident, and she’s now able to show off a playful side. (On The Tonight Show, she juggled lemons.)

Can the Olympics really incorporate this narrative? Isn’t women’s figure skating the event, above others, that’s all about winning? Sure, but not necessarily if you’re an American. Americans have a long love affair with failing, especially lately, argues Liza Mundy in the Atlantic piece “Losing Is the New Winning.” Lately, politicians love to portray themselves as losers who’ve overcome their enormous failings. And now, perhaps, so do athletes. If Gold’s looking for permanent inspiration, she could copy the tattoo that Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka has inscribed on his left forearm: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.”



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.