Gracie Gold details ‘mental health crisis,’ return to figure skating

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Gracie Gold detailed what she called “a mental health crisis” that led her to get treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder last year, pausing her figure skating career.

“I was absolutely so clinically depressed,” Gold said in a No Bull Biz TV interview published Saturday. “I look back on it not sad — because there was amazing personal growth — but it really opened my eyes to the struggles of mental health and how there still really is that stigma around it. It’s really uncomfortable for a lot of people to talk about.

“Most people don’t feel safe reaching out. … I felt like I was going to be judged or have my reality denied that, well, you’re Gracie Gold. What do you have to be depressed about? Look at your life. Look at all these things. How could you be depressed? I had people semi-close to me say that.”

Gold’s struggles spiraled at the 2016 World Championships, where she dropped from first after the short program to fourth overall after a disastrous free skate.

“A lot of stuff in my personal life was really chaotic,” she said. “I really started to go down pretty quickly.”

Gold considered taking the fall 2016 season off but instead “kept running head-first into the same wall” in skating.

She last competed at the January 2017 U.S. Championships, placing sixth and splitting from her coach, Frank Carroll, who had helped her to a team-event bronze medal and fourth-place individual finish at the Sochi Olympics.

Gold said the final breaking point was a U.S. team camp before the 2017-18 season. She lashed out at one or two people who made an insensitive comment about her looking like she didn’t care.

“My MO in skating was like very plastic Barbie, prim and proper,” she said. “So for me to tell important people at my federation off, including some profanity, was like very uncharacteristic of me. It’s referred to now as ‘the incident.’”

Shortly after that, Gold described in detail her life as a mess to a close friend with the U.S. team.

“She didn’t know what to say, but she just sprung into action,” Gold said. “She and another member were really some of the fundamental people in getting me the help that I needed.”

Gold announced Sept. 1, 2017 that she was seeking professional help “after recent struggles on and off the ice.” She finished treatment the following month.

She decided not to rush a return to competition for a PyeongChang Olympic run. Gold said that, for the first time, she lived a normal life without considering skating.

Then she attended January’s U.S. Championships as a spectator.

“I was just watching skating, kind of being back in the environment,” said Gold, who became a Twitter sensation for her live social media commentary. “I forgot how many great things that there are. A lot of elite skaters that I talk to, a lot of us just get burned out, bitter and really focus on the negatives. Then I realize how many great things there are about skating, going through the international circuit, the competition.”

Gold met who would become her new coach at nationals (presumably Vincent Restencourt). In April, she decided that she wanted to return to elite skating. Gold is scheduled to compete next month for the first time in nearly two years.

She has a morning routine that includes writing down her schedule and goals, coffee and positive affirmation apps. Pinterest is a passion.

“So I fixed myself, in a way,” she said. “It’s kind of a daily journey, but pulled myself back together, getting back into skating, so that we would have four years for the next Olympics, which was more in my head my ideal retirement. … There are many more bumps in the road than I first envisioned, but I’m looking forward to enjoying the process again.”

That process brought Gold to train in the Northeast for the first time in Pennsylvania.

“If I didn’t [try to come back], I felt like I would regret it forever,” she said. “I would just be more unhappy if I didn’t go for it than if I did and it didn’t work out.”

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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