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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.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold….go to NBCsportsgold.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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David Taylor wins wrestling world title, at long last

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David Taylor, the formerly dominant NCAA wrestler known as the Magic Man, was stuck for five years.

Stuck finishing second or third in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 World Championships team trials in the U.S.’ toughest weight class owned by Jordan Burroughs. When Taylor moved up a division, he suffered the same fate in 2016 (Olympic Trials) and 2017.

At last, at 27 years old, Taylor made his first world team this summer. It helped that United World Wrestling expanded the number of weight classes from eight to 10, meaning Taylor didn’t have to go through Burroughs, Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox or four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake at trials. But Taylor earned his place, going undefeated internationally this year.

Then in Budapest on Sunday, Taylor completed a breakthrough run through the 86kg bracket, becoming a world champion.

Taylor is the oldest first-time Olympic or world champion for USA Wrestling since 2006, when now-freestyle head coach Bill Zadick did so at 33. Taylor reached the top four years after ending an NCAA career at Penn State that included two Hodge Trophies, given to the college wrestler of the year.

Taylor had to work from start to finish in Budapest, upsetting Iran’s Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani in his first match Saturday. He then dumped Turkey’s top-seeded Fatih Erdin in the final, scoring a two-point takedown in the first 10 seconds and getting a 12-2 tech fall.

Also Sunday, the 2012 Olympic champ Burroughs rallied for a bronze medal, beating Cuban-born Italian nemesis Frank Chamizo via tiebreaker by scoring the last point with 26 seconds left. It’s the seventh Olympic or world medal for Burroughs in eight global tournaments, coming one day after he suffered just his seventh defeat in seven-plus years on the senior stage.

In the 61kg bracket, worlds rookie Joe Colon earned a bronze medal, two weeks after replacing U.S. champion Nahshon Garrett on the team. Garrett, who beat Colon in the world team trials final in June, is out with a torn pectoral.

Cox and Dake advanced to Monday’s gold-medal matches in the 92kg and 79kg divisions, respectively.

Logan Stieber, a 2016 World champion, lost his opening match at 65kg. Thomas Gilman, the 2017 World silver medalist at 57kg, lost his semifinal match and will go for bronze Monday.

Olympic champions Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis begin their world title defenses on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.

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Ethiopian marathoner who made Olympic protest returns from exile

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The Ethiopian marathon runner who made global headlines with an anti-government gesture at the Rio Olympics finish line returned from exile on Sunday after sports officials assured him he will not face prosecution.

Feyisa Lilesa’s return from the United States came several months after a reformist prime minister took office and announced sweeping political reforms. He received a warm welcome at the airport from the foreign minister and other senior officials.

Feyisa said the new government is “a result of the struggle by the people” and he hopes it will address concerns after years of repression in Africa’s second most populous nation.

The silver medalist crossed his wrists at the finish line in 2016 in solidarity with protesters in his home region, Oromia, who like many across Ethiopia were demanding wider freedoms.

Feyisa later said he feared he would be imprisoned or killed if he returned home. But he became a symbol of resistance for many youth until the pressure on the government led to a change of power, with 42-year-old Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking office in April.

Abiy is the country’s first leader from the Oromo ethnic group since the ruling coalition came to power 27 years ago.

Ethiopia’s government did not immediately comment Sunday on the runner’s return.

Asked by The Associated Press if he has any political ambitions, Feyisa said: “I don’t have any ambition in politics! Actually I didn’t get close to politics, politics gets close to me.”

Feyisa broke down in tears while speaking about youth who lost their lives during the years of protests. “I will continue to remember those who lost their lives for the cause. Many people lost their lives for it.”

Turning his attention to running, he said his next race will be the Dubai Marathon in January.

“My training while I was in exile was not good, so it has affected my performance,” Feyisa said. He missed two races in recent weeks as he prepared to return to Ethiopia. “I will resume my regular training after a week.”

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