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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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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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