The U.S. Figure Skating Nationals are this week, which will decide who will go to Pyeongchang for the Olympics in February. However, there’s a face that’s missing among the skaters. Gracie Gold, who stepped away from skating in October, hasn’t returned to the ice yet, and won’t be competing for an Olympic spot.
Not being on the ice won’t keep her from being beside the ice, though. USA Today reported that Gracie will be attending Nationals all this week to support her friends who are competing and vying for those precious Olympic spots.
Gold’s absence from competition isn’t a surprise. She announced in October that she was stepping away from skating to “seek help” for unspecified reasons. A week later, the 22-year-old Gold was candid about why she needed to take a break: she’s in treatment for anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. Gold even talked publicly about her weight at a skating competition in October 2016, a whole year before she announced her break. From USA Today:
“It’s just something I’ve struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons,” she said. “It’s just difficult when you’re trying to do the difficult triple jumps. It’s something that I am addressing but it’s obviously not where it should be for this caliber of competition.”
Eating disorders aren’t uncommon in women’s figure skating. The sport demands a lot of a body: a skater needs to be flexible, and strong enough to jump and leap, but light enough to get the right amount of rotation. Beyond that, the visual component of the sport almost demands a birdlike build and appearance. All those factors can be overwhelmingly difficult to balance.
Gold, who is a two-time national champion and the owner of a team bronze medal from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, did a brave thing by stepping away and seeking help. She recognized that her own health and wellbeing was more important than skating, even though going into treatment meant giving up what is most likely her last chance at an individual Olympic medal.
It’s also pretty brave for Gracie to go to Nationals to watch her friends skate. She’s an extremely talented skater and a fierce competitor, and it can’t be easy to watch the Olympic qualifier from the sidelines. But Gracie Gold is doing what’s best for herself right now: taking a break from skating, and supporting her friends.
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