Just over a month after revealing she would be seeking “professional help” to deal with unspecified off-ice issues, U.S. figure skater Gracie Gold opened up about some of the details.
“I am currently in treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder,” the 22-year-old who helped Team USA to the bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi said in a statement Friday (via Team USA).
To continue her treatment, Gold said she is withdrawing from two Grand Prix events next month, which will significantly threaten her chances to compete at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. While participating in the Grand Prix series isn’t the only factor that determines whether a skater is named to the U.S. Olympic team, results and form in those competitions are taken under consideration.
“It saddens me deeply to sit out of this Grand Prix series, but I know it is for the best. . . . I will not have adequate training time to prepare and compete at the level that I want to,” Gold added, thanking her fans, coach, U.S. Figure Skating and others for their “continued support.”
Gold first revealed what she called “recent struggles off the ice” in early September but said at the time she had no plans to withdraw from the Grand Prix events in Beijing and Grenoble.
Gold, a two-time national champion, made her decision after a less-than-stellar 2016 season that saw a significant slip in her performance results. She uncharacteristically missed out on the podium at the U.S. Championships, finishing sixth, to mark the start of what turned into a season-long rut.
It was during these tough times on the ice that Gold began to reveal some of her mental health struggles, in particular issues regarding her weight. For example, last October, following a poor result at Skate America, Gold said (via USA Today), “You don’t often see — there aren’t that many — you just don’t see overweight figure skaters for a reason.”
“It’s just something I’ve struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons,” she added. “It’s just difficult when you’re trying to do the difficult triple jumps. It’s something that I am addressing, but it’s obviously not where it should be for this caliber of competition.”
Gold’s self-assessment raised eyebrows for many, including one of the reporters in the scrum, who pointed out Gold was not “overweight” by any stretch of the imagination. Gold thanked the journalist for her comment but added, “It’s a lean body sport, and it’s just not what I have currently.”
While Gold’s decision to address her eating disorder and other mental health issues comes as a disappointment to many fans hoping to see her back on the ice sooner than later, most, including fellow skaters, found her decision to put her well-being above her career, and possibly another chance at Olympic gold, admirable.
While Gold has made her struggles public, former skaters — men and women — have suggested others may be suffering in silence, especially when it comes to eating disorders.
“Being a skater, I understand where Gracie was coming from,” Johnny Weir, who now works as a skating commentator, told NBC Sports last year. “To the masses, whenever you talk about diet and food and getting in shape physically, when you are an athlete on TV and you look like you are in shape compared to most of the country, it can be a little bit of a disconnect between the athletes appearing on TV and the audience.”
Weir’s broadcast partner Tara Lipinski, who won gold at the 1998 Olympics when she was just 15, agreed that “these are thoughts that every skater’s thinking about” but added she hopes there will one day be change.
“You hope that, over time, you can start to look at the skaters that have been great champions and realize everyone has a different body type,” Lipinski said.