Last year at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minn., Carly Gold, skated in the ladies event, finishing in 19th place. It was her first and only appearance at the national level.

Satisfied that she achieved her goal, Gold decided to hang up her skates a few months later. “I miss the day-to-day interaction with my friends at the rink, but I can’t say that I miss the training,” the 21-year-old said with a laugh. “Doing run-throughs of a free skate kicked my butt, and it wasn’t exactly fun for me.”

Although she skated in a holiday show recently, Gold admitted that she has only been lacing up her boots two to three times a month since her retirement from competitive skating. “I did skate a bit more over the winter break, but I just don’t get to the rink that often,” she said.

Since retiring, Gold has moved on with her life. She is enrolled as a fulltime student at Marymount California University, majoring in business. She has also taken classes in photography at Santa Monica College, which has given her a new creative outlet.  “I took the first class so that I could get better at taking Instagram pictures,” she explained. “And I liked it so much that I took a more advanced class.”

Gold’s Instagram photos led her to an offer to work behind the scenes at the Championships in Kansas City as an assistant event photographer. “I will be taking photos of off ice events like autograph sessions, alumni events, and stuff like that,” she said. “I’m really excited to have this opportunity to combine skating and photography, and I am looking forward to getting to work.”

As a former competitor — and twin sister to reigning champion Gracie Gold, this is a unique opportunity to see the U.S. Championships in a new way.

“This is kind of my third perspective into nationals,” she said. “I was a spectator watching my sister compete for several years, and then last year I was able to compete myself. This year I get to see what happens behind the scenes, so I am really excited about that.”

Of course Gold ensured that her photography schedule does not conflict with her sister’s competition or practices. “I’m trying to help keep her calm, focused, and happy” she said. “I wrote her a letter on the plane that I slipped into her skate bag. I hope she reads it before she competes.”