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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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Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

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Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

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Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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