Gracie Gold

Gracie Gold
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Gracie Gold overcomes literally and figuratively running out of gas

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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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U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Full Results | Worlds roster | 10 Takeaways

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.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. 

Alysa Liu repeats as U.S. figure skating champion at age 14

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Alysa Liu became the youngest U.S. figure skating champion in history last year, at age 13. In her title defense, she learned late Thursday that another new experience was on the horizon.

She would go last in the senior nationals free skate Friday night in Greensboro, N.C.

For many skaters, that assignment is the most pressure-packed in the sport. Liu embraced the challenge, confident that it will not be the last time she is in that spotlight.

“I kind of mentally prepared myself the night before for the long wait, and I think that kind of helped set up for the long wait today,” she said late Friday, after becoming the first woman to repeat as national champ since Ashley Wagner in 2013.

NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

The wait may have seemed longer after the penultimate skater, Mariah Bell, brought the house down with a clean program including seven triple jumps. Liu watched it. Even clapped along with the crowd.

Then Liu landed two triple Axels — as she did last year — and the first quadruple jump by a woman in nationals history (albeit under-rotated). Liu rallied from a short-program deficit and distanced Bell by 10.31 points.

“I guess I was kind of inspired by [Bell’s] emotion and her happiness,” Liu said. “I guess that inspired me at the end of my program to relax and be happy and just kind of be aware of the moment.”

Bradie Tennell, the short-program leader, dropped to third after falling on a triple loop.

The night’s emotional moment occurred two hours earlier. Gracie Gold, in her first nationals in three years, was brought to tears after coming back from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.

“The full arena pulling for my existence, like, on the ice,” said Gold, who finished 12th, lacking the most difficult jumping combinations but determined to continue next season. “I want everything now when I demand it, but I have to remind myself of that it is a progression. And next, we just kind of keep the train going.”

More on Gold’s night, including video, here.

Nationals continue Saturday with the pairs’ free skate, free dance and the men’s short program, live on NBC Sports.

Liu won on her technical merit. No other active U.S. senior woman has landed either a triple Axel or a quad in competition. At least one is necessary to contend with the world’s best — Russians competing at the European Championships this week.

Liu is too young to compete on the senior international level until the 2022 Olympic season. She ranks third in the world among junior skaters this season, behind two Russians, going into March’s junior world championships.

Bell, the oldest skater in the last group at 23, had her best nationals result after bronze medals in 2017 and 2019. Much to the delight of her coaches at rink level — Rafael Arutunian and Olympian Adam Rippon.

Tennell, who couldn’t bend one of her arms on Wednesday, fell on the last of her 10 jumps in the free skate, a triple loop.

For the second straight year, Tennell topped the nationals short program, fell in the free skate and dropped down the podium. Stunning given Tennell broke through in the 2017-18 season as the only elite international skater without a fall going into the Olympics.

Bell and Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, will likely make up March’s senior world team for a second straight year. A U.S. Figure Skating committee makes that decision, hoping the duo has combined results add up to no greater than 13 to ensure the U.S. gets three world spots in 2021.

Earlier, Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance with 87.63 points, taking a 1.32-point lead over two-time defending champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue going into Saturday’s free dance. They could become the first U.S. skater, couple or pair to go five years between national titles in many decades.

Chock and Bates came out of the Sochi Olympics as the top U.S. couple, succeeding Meryl Davis and Charlie White. But they fell behind both Hubbell and Donohue and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani going into the PyeongChang Olympics.

After that, Chock underwent ankle surgery. The couple moved from Michigan to Montreal. They now train with Hubbell and Donohue and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

“We’re just finding our groove right now,” Bates said. “It feels like we’re just having a bit of a renaissance with our career.”

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MORE: Vincent Zhou put Ivy League classes on hold to return to figure skating

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.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.

Gracie Gold in tears at figure skating nationals after emotional comeback

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Gracie Gold received a standing ovation from the crowd inside the Greensboro Coliseum after her free skate Friday night. It was her first nationals performance in three years after time away from the sport to treat depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

“Truthfully, I was almost so overwhelmed that I was just very much existing in the moment because I couldn’t exist anywhere else,” she said of being brought to tears at center ice when her program concluded. “Then, obviously, the audience reaction I felt like was very powerful.”

Gold has received other standing ovations in the past, at the conclusions of her two national title-winning free skates in 2014 and 2016.

“It reminded me a little bit more of 2014, where, yes, I had skated well but people were also standing because it was semi-clear that I had won aka I had qualified for the Olympics,” she said. “People were up before the end. It had that kind of energy where even as I was getting into the knee slide, it felt like it got bigger. Obviously, the skating didn’t warrant a full-arena standing ‘O.’ It didn’t.”

She was 13th after Thursday’s short program and 12th overall in a field of 18 skaters. In her free skate, set to Sara Bareilles’ “She Used to be Mine,” Gold landed four triple jumps but several planned triples ended up doubles or singles.

Eagle-eyed fans might have noticed a moth tattoo peaking out of her costume. She explained that she got it during her retirement, and it had a special meaning.

“It’s representative of a moment that I had in treatment with some of the other girls,” she said. “We were discussing tattoos, and a lot of them had different ink. One had had a skull, and she was gonna change it into a moth. I asked her, why a moth? She said, ‘It’s because they always find the light.’ I kid you not, a large black moth came and landed in the middle of our table and didn’t move. So, in retirement, I of course found my way into a tattoo parlor. And yes, now I have a piece.”

Audiences haven’t seen the last of her, she said. Gold isn’t finished with the comeback and has plans to skate next season.

“I think we’ve earned that,” she said.

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.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.