Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold
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Ashley Wagner takes figure skating break; Gracie Gold set to return

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Ashley Wagner is taking her first competitive break after 11 seasons as a senior figure skater, sitting out the fall Grand Prix series, while Gracie Gold is scheduled to compete for the first time since January 2017.

“After the craziness of last season, I decided to take a breather and sit out of this Grand Prix season,” was posted on Wagner’s Instagram. “My passion for the sport burns very bright, but after 11 seasons on the circuit I am ready for a bit of a break! I am continuing to train and take this day by day, but I’m allowing myself the opportunity to open up the definition of what skating means to me!”

Wagner, a 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist and 2016 World silver medalist, and 2014 Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia were the notable singles skaters missing from the Grand Prix assignments published by the International Skating Union on Thursday.

Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics, is the newsworthy name on the entry lists.

GRAND PRIX ENTRIES: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

She announced Sept. 1 that she was seeking professional help “after recent struggles on and off the ice,” then in October said she was in treatment for an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. Gold attended January’s U.S. Championships but had not announced anything regarding a possible return to skating.

The Grand Prix is the equivalent of figure skating’s regular season. The world’s best skaters each compete twice out of six events in October and November, with the top six per discipline qualifying for December’s Grand Prix Final, a prelude to the world championships in March.

This fall’s headliners are Olympic champions Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu and silver medalists Yevgenia Medvedeva and Shoma Uno as well as U.S. champions Nathan Chen and Bradie Tennell.

The six Grand Prix series events are Skate America, Skate Canada, Grand Prix Finland (replacing Cup of China), NHK Trophy (Japan), Rostelecom Cup (Russia) and Internationaux de France. The Grand Prix Final is in Vancouver.

Wagner, 27, is the most accomplished U.S. woman over the last decade, taking three national titles, five Grand Prix wins and three Grand Prix Final medals. At her last competition, she placed fourth at the U.S. Championships in January, missing the three-woman Olympic team.

Wagner then withdrew from the Four Continents Championships and declined a spot at March’s world championships after PyeongChang Olympian Karen Chen gave up her spot after the Winter Games.

Sotnikova, 21, has skated just once on the Grand Prix circuit since taking the Sochi Olympic title over Yuna Kim four years ago and hasn’t competed anywhere since the start of 2017. Sotnikova has not announced retirement, though, unlike her Sochi teammate and fellow gold medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya.

Other big names missing from Grand Prix assignments already said they are taking a break from skating (Adam RipponMirai NagasuMaia Shibutani and Alex ShibutaniJavier Fernandez, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot), retiring (Patrick ChanMeagan Duhamel and Eric Radford) or are simply not expected to compete again (Tessa Virtue and Scott MoirMeryl Davis and Charlie WhiteTatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov).

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Adelina Sotnikova cleared in Russia doping investigation, reports say

Adelina Sotnikova
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In a notable Russian victory on Thursday, the IOC dropped a Sochi Olympic doping case against an athlete but declined to confirm the person’s identity “in order to protect the rights of the athlete.”

Russian news agencies reported that it was figure skating gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova.

“To be honest, we expected this result from the investigation into Sotnikova because we were sure that everything would be cleared up,” Russian Figure Skating Federation president Alexander Gorshkov told the R-Sport agency.

The Sotnikova news came on the same day that the IOC disqualified four more Russian cross-country skiers from the Sochi Olympics and any future Games. Two other Russian cross-country skiers were disqualified last week in the same fashion.

Russia has been stripped of four of its Sochi Olympic-leading 33 medals due to reports of doping violations leading up to and during the 2014 Winter Games.

Sotnikova will keep her gold, which means South Korean Yuna Kim will remain second, with Italian Carolina Kostner third. American Gracie Gold was fourth.

If all of the stripped medals (so far) are redistributed, then Russia will fall into a tie with Norway for most total medals at the Sochi Olympics with 29 each.

More Russian athletes reportedly met with the IOC to determine possible sanctions, including Olympic medalist bobsledders and skeleton athletes. Those decisions have not been announced.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gracie Gold taking time off from figure skating to seek professional help

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Gracie Gold will take time away from skating to seek professional help, according to a statement she released to USA Today Sports. Gold, the 2014 and 2016 U.S. champion, finished fourth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She also won a bronze medal with the U.S. contingent in the team event.

“My passion for skating and training remains strong,” Gold said in the statement, without going into detail about the type of professional help she will seek. “However, after recent struggles on and off the ice, I realize I need to seek some professional help and will be taking some time off while preparing for my Grand Prix assignments. This time will help me become a stronger person, which I believe will be reflected in my skating performances as well.”

Gold has since pulled out of the Oct. 7 Japan Open, a free-skate only competition, but remains committed to her Grand Prix assignments later in the fall. She is scheduled to compete at the Cup of China in Beijing and the Internationaux de France in Grenoble in November.

The 2018 Olympic team won’t be decided until January’s national championships.

At the 2016 World Championships, Gold fell from first in the short program to fourth overall after the free skate. She faltered in the 2016-17 season, earning a career-low sixth place finish at the 2017 Nationals. She was not named to a world championship team for the first time in her five-year career as a senior skater.

Gold and her Los Angeles-based coach at the time, Frank Carroll, soon split. Gold moved to Canton, Michigan soon after to train with coaches Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein.

Earlier in the week, both Russians in the ladies field from the Sochi Olympics also announced they would not be competing this season. Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova is injured and Yulia Lipniskaya, who won gold in the team event, retired.

More on the Russians’ retirements here.