updated 08/25/2015 AT 8:16 PM ET
•originally published 02/19/2014 AT 11:15 AM ET
Gold, 18, already dazzled on the Olympic ice with her performance in the team event and helping the Americans win bronze. On Wednesday, she begins (with her short program) in what many consider to be the Games’ main event – the ladies’ individual figure skating competition.
So what’s a mother to do? If you’re Denise, you check out the local sights, look for those Black Sea porpoises (that “everyone” but you has seen) and try to keep your nerves in check. Shortly before her daughter goes for the gold, the skater’s mom shares some details from her days in Sochi with PEOPLE:
Feb. 6: Our first day here we walked around Sochi to all the parks, which are very beautiful, and walked along the shore of the Black Sea. I haven’t seen any porpoises, but everyone else has and I keep looking. I was nervous before we left. I was concerned about what would happen in Moscow. But it was wonderful. There were so many volunteers there at the airport helping us. Everything I was concerned about wasn’t an issue. I usually forget something [when I travel], but I didn’t this time – or maybe I just don’t know it yet.
Feb. 7: The opening ceremonies were fantastic. Hard to say just what I loved the most. Really loved the dancers, especially the way the Russians do ballet. It was magnificent. But my favorite was watching my daughter walk into the stadium. That would have to be the highlight. That was kind of incredible. And the fireworks were quite impressive. Oh, and the lighting of the torch. It’s my first Olympics. It’s all pretty impressive to me.
Feb. 17: Gracie’s practice wasn’t until late today. I didn’t go, but I went twice yesterday. Instead, I sat outside the practice arena and texted people. I went to the Athlete’s Village, where Gracie is staying and couldn’t believe the incredible food they have in the dining hall. It’s fantastic. She met us. We had to have a special pass. There’s lots of security, which I’m grateful for. We got to see her room. Her roommate is [American ice dancer] Maia Shibutani. Her balcony looks right out onto the Black Sea. And she’s got a really nice Team USA poster on the wall, signed by all the team leaders.
Feb. 18: To manage my nerves I’ve been reminding myself to just accept, to let the universe unfold, and that what is supposed to happen will, that things happen the way they are supposed to. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s painful, but it’s all part of sport. I repeat this over and over: “As it should be. As it should be.” I know every part of her program by heart, so when I’m watching it I’m kind of going through it with her. She’s ready. She’s worked hard.
Johnny Dodd (@Johnny_Dodd) February 19, 2014