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Gracie Gold opens up on TODAY about her battle with depression

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Two-time national champion and 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist Gracie Gold appeared on TODAY on Friday to describe the details of her battle with depression and an eating disorder.

“I remember feeling kind of like a fraud in a way,” Gold said during the interview. “I was ‘America’s sweetheart’ or I was ‘the golden girl’ and I was afraid to be real with my struggles because then I wouldn’t be as perfect as the media saw me.”

She recalled playing a game with herself, seeing how low she could keep her caloric intake for the day.

“No one needs to eat two pizzas in a sitting,” Gold said. “But then throughout the week, I’d be like, ‘you can have three coffees and two apples’ — and also like, ‘hey, update, that’s not right either!'”

She said she planned to deal with it after she was done skating.

“It just got more and more extreme until it was just unbearable,” she said.

Gold also talked about attending Champs Camp in 2017, the pre-season evaluation for U.S. skaters.

“I remember feeling like, they don’t need me there because I’m this washed-up loser,” Gold recalled. “I’m toxic. They can see how bad it is. They can kick me off the team and then I can go about my sad life.”

She said she wasn’t “actively suicidal.”

“But I definitely was at a point where I didn’t see myself existing much longer. Honestly, I was gonna live until my money ran out.”

After therapy — which she said wasn’t a magic wand — she started to want to have more good days than bad days.

She said the “ultimate dream” is Beijing 2022, but winning a medal at the world championships would be a bigger deal than going back to the Olympics.

The full interview is below:

MORE: Gold talks to the New York Times

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Four Continents Reporter’s Notebook Day 1: Can U.S. Figure Skating’s junior world team help improve results?

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The next time you complain about working overtime, think of Timoki Hiwatashi and Ting Cui.

The young skaters distinguished themselves at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Mich., placing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the senior men’s and ladies’ divisions. Cui finished up her event the night of Jan. 25; Hiwatashi, on the afternoon of Jan. 27.

Both are age-eligible for the 2019 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia Mar. 4-10, and both were invited to U.S. Figure Skating’s first-ever World Junior Team Camp, held Sunday and Monday in Strongsville, Ohio. To no one’s surprise, they were selected for the U.S. World Junior Team.

From there, Cui and Hiwatashi journeyed to Anaheim, Calif. for the 2019 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Three major competitions and a monitoring camp, all in the space of six weeks.

MORE: Bradie Tennell, Vincent Zhou lead Four Continents after short programs

“I flew straight here, so it’s kind of been a crazy week after nationals,” Cui, 16, said.

The 19-year-old Hiwatashi, who wasn’t expecting his fourth-place finish and subsequent Four Continents’ assignment, is glad to be here but admitted the schedule was tough.

“Originally I was planning to go back (home) to Chicago, take a rest, I wasn’t expecting fourth,” Hiwatashi said, adding, “I guess I may be a little fatigued, but I try not to think about anything. I try to do the best recovery I can, the best warm-up I can, to come here and not get injured.”

Neither Cui nor Hiwatashi looked fatigued during their short programs at the Honda Center on Thursday. Cui skated clean, earning 66.73 points and seventh place for a Rachmaninov short that included a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination; Hiwatashi touched down his free leg on the landing of his triple Axel, but shone in the rest of his jazzy “Cry Me a River” program, earning 76.95 points for ninth place.

“I was just trying to be focused and do what I do in practice,” Cui said. “When I landed (the triple-triple) I was happy to be able to complete it. It wasn’t my best one but I was happy I did it.”

Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches Cui in Colorado Springs, Colo., doesn’t think his skater is overdoing things.

“She practices so intensely, I told her to just think of it as how you practice every day,” Zakrajsek said. “She likes to have an intense workload, so nationals with the Junior Worlds Camp and then (Four Continents) is just like three weeks of hard training. If anything, it’s made her do less than she normally does in training.”

Cui, Harrell hope to end Junior Worlds’ medal drought

The camp, which included singles’ skaters only, simulated competition of both the short programs and free skates, with skaters receiving protocols complete with element levels, grades of execution and program component scores. Zakrajsek was uncertain if the process helped Cui.

“Well…I’d guess yes,” he said. “I think competing here in Anaheim is really helpful for Ting. We do what we are told we have to do (by U.S. Figure Skating) and the camp is not negotiable.”

No U.S. lady has earned a medal at Junior Worlds since Gracie Gold took silver in 2012. In the six seasons since then, Russian and Japanese ladies have claimed all of the medals. The last U.S. lady to win the event was Rachael Flatt in 2008. Cui, the top U.S. finisher last season, placed seventh.

At the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, Russians Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kanysheva claimed the top three spots. No U.S. lady qualified.

Results like this helped give birth to the camp, said Justin Dillon, U.S. Figure Skating’s Director, High Performance Development.

“The data over the last couple of years has shown our skaters are not as consistent as we would like them to be,” Dillon said, attributing some of the deficit to lack of direct head-to-head competition.

“We want to put these athletes together for a little bit of training, and also competition,” he added.

Differences in event types – some of the skaters competed on the Junior Grand Prix, while others had their best performances at senior events – make direct comparisons difficult.

“For example, the energy was different for Gabriella Izzo, who won juniors in Detroit, than it was for the ladies competing as seniors,” Dillon said. “I would like to see them do junior programs side-by-side…Apples to apples is a better way for U.S. Figure Skating to evaluate the athletes.”

Hanna Harrell, fourth at the 2019 U.S. Championships, will join Cui in Croatia. Alex Krasnozhon, who placed fifth in Detroit, and Camden Pulkinen, who was 12th, round out the U.S. junior men’s team.

Other skaters considered at the camp were: on the ladies’ side, Starr Andrews (eighth in Detroit); Emmy Ma (ninth) and Izzo, the 2019 U.S. junior ladies’ champion. Andrew Torgashev, seventh in Detroit, attended the camp, as did the top two junior men’s finishers, Ryan Dunk and Dinh Tran.

U.S. men have fared better on the junior circuit than U.S. ladies. In recent years, Nathan Chen and Hiwatashi have earned medals at Junior Worlds, and Vincent Zhou won the event in 2017.  But while Pulkinen, Hiwatashi and Torgashev all qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final this season, none of them earned medals. (Torgashev withdrew from the event due to a fractured right big toe.)

According to Zakrajsek, while Pulkinen was disappointed by his programs in Detroit, his performances at the camp helped lift him to the team.

“At this camp, everyone stands around and watches you, including your competitors,” Zakrajsek said. “Eyes are on you the entire time, and Camden went out and did clean programs. He threw down a clean long program when he had to.”

The U.S. Championships and World Junior Team Camp are not the only criteria considered. The International Selection Committee also looks at performances on the Grand Prix circuit; placements at past World Junior Championships, and ISU Challenger Series’ performances.

“Camden did very well in Tier 2, 3 and 4 of the criteria, but in Tier 1, nationals, he didn’t,” Zakrajsek said. “At camp, we did some things a little different than we normally do, to help bring out his best.”

As for Cui, Zakrajsek thinks she’s capable of scoring an upset at the World Junior Championships.

“She has a maturity and a complete performance (quality) not all of the top girls have,” he said. “We know she can break 70 points in the short program, she did that at the Junior Grand Prix at Ostrava (in September; Cui placed seventh overall). She’s even stronger now. If she can break 70 in the short at Junior Worlds, she will be right in the medal hunt.”

MORE: How to watch Four Continents

Gracie Gold details mental health, body image issues in New York Times interview

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In an interview with the New York Times, two-time national champion Gracie Gold discussed her mental health issues in greater detail than she had in the past.

“I was suicidal for months,” she told the Times. “If I had just continued the way I was in Detroit, I’d probably be dead.”

She lived in Detroit for several months following her split with California-based coach Frank Carroll in Jan. 2017.

Gold said there were periods of time where she would sleep the entire day, then stay up for three days straight. She covered the mirrors in her Detroit-area apartment because she didn’t want to look at herself.

Gold, a 2014 Olympian, had said in Sept. 2017 that she was seeking treatment for depression, anxiety and disordered eating. She skipped the entire 2018 Olympic season.

She had discussed some of the details of what she called a “mental health crisis” in a since-deleted video interview from Oct. 2018. The Times report pinpoints her up and down weight gains and losses, the length of time she spent in an Arizona rehabilitation center, and familial strains.

After 22 months out of competition, Gold, 23, returned at Grand Prix Russia in Nov. 2018. She withdrew after a disastrous short program, but vowed at that time to be ready for the U.S. Championships in Detroit.

Just over two weeks ago, Gold withdrew from nationals to give herself more time to prepare for next season and, eventually, to try to make the team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

MORE: Gracie Gold withdraws from nationals