Gracie Gold has told a lot of revelatory personal anecdotes over the years. (In the latest, she explained the reason for getting a tattoo of a moth.) Gold has been so open, in fact, that she cannot even remember the one that now sounds like an allegory for her larger story.
“I’m gonna have to text Carly,” she said of her twin sister, “Like, ‘do you remember that time in Detroit…’”
This is the story Gold told me in August 2017, before announcing her break from figure skating for treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder a few weeks later. I brought it up to her after her return to the U.S. Championships this past weekend in Greensboro, N.C., wondering if it was a metaphor for her life.
She and Carly were coming home from a friend’s birthday party in the Detroit area, with the two-time national champion behind the wheel of a VW Tiguan. They dressed up, with Gracie wearing a “sensible-ish heel” and Carly in heels that were “not sensible.”
It was around 1 a.m., and they were on their way home, and both were tired and cranky. They had been driving about 45 minutes, with 10 minutes remaining to their destination.
They drove along… Got to an exit ramp… Suddenly, with no warning, the car stopped running.
Gold managed to navigate to the side of the road and realized she had run out of gas.
Carly was not amused.
“This wasn’t like we were sputtering. This was: the car no longer worked,” Gold said.
The way Gold described the car would sound familiar to those who have heard her talk about her mental health crisis.
There’s more to the story, though. Gold somehow had the presence of mind to get herself out of the situation. She told Carly to hold the wheel – after a debate about who’d be getting out of the car – and Gracie threw the SUV into neutral.
Gold remembered “being so mad at myself and finding this weird strength and anger to push this car. A gas station was close enough that it seemed possible.”
In her heels, Gold pushed the vehicle down the otherwise-barren exit ramp to a large “M” glowing in the distance.
“At the time, it felt like forever; I don’t even know if I could accurately gauge [the distance],” she said.
Pushing it was her best option, she figured, without any ride-sharing services nearby. She thought at the time a roadside assistance service might laugh at them, stranded so near a gas station. Gold had only lived in Michigan for about a month which left no friendly neighbors to call in a pinch.
After the initial push, she couldn’t believe how easily she got her car to roll.
“It was a straight shot, slightly downhill. I was like, ‘OK, this is possible,’” she said. “An uphill battle – or in this case, a neutral-to-downhill battle.”
The gas station, ironically, was part of a chain called “Marathon.”
Gold’s recovery has been more marathon than sprint. The 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist took the long road to nationals this season. She qualified through sectional and regional competitions instead of automatically qualifying, as she had in previous years. It was her first U.S. Championships since 2017.
And she would use a car metaphor during her televised interview with NBC’s Andrea Joyce following the short program.
“You can’t get anywhere ‘til you start the car, right?” she said. “So, we just keep going.”
After the free skate, where she received a standing ovation and finished 12th out of 18 skaters, she put herself back in the driver’s seat. She said she intends to move forward as a competitive skater for at least another season.
“We’ve started the car, so to speak,” Gold said, “and now we’re shifting from first to second [gear], second to third, all the way up to sixth.”
With her mental and physical tanks refilled, Gold wants to see how fast she can go, and how far it will take her.
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