Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. figure skating champion and 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist whose last name and movie star looks have captivated her sport, said Friday morning in a statement released to USA TODAY Sports that she will be taking time off five months before the next Winter Olympics “to seek some professional help.”
She did not say what kind of professional help she will be receiving.
“My passion for skating and training remains strong,” Gold said in the statement. “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 was scheduled to open her 2018 Olympic season at the Japan Open, an invitational team competition in Saitama, Japan, on Oct. 7, but she now will not attend that event. Her Grand Prix assignments, in Beijing and Grenoble, France, are both scheduled in November.
The 2018 U.S. Olympic figure skating trials are in early January, now just four months away. The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, start Feb. 9. At no time in recent memory has a skater voluntarily taken time away from her sport at such a crucial moment. There are three women’s spots available on the 2018 U.S. Olympic figure skating team.
Gold, 22, has found herself on a precipitous and alarming 17-month-long slide since performing poorly in the long program at the 2016 world championships in Boston, falling from first place to fourth. Her decline culminated this spring and summer in a disheartening inability to land even the simplest jumps in skating shows and a U.S. Figure Skating preview camp.
Gold’s announcement comes just four days after Russian 2014 Olympic team gold medalist Julia Lipnitskaia announced her retirement at 19 after a battle with anorexia. Lipnitskaia’s mother, Daniela, told the Russian news agency Tass on Monday that her daughter was retiring after three months of treatment for the eating disorder.
Gold herself has struggled with her weight. After a disappointing fifth-place finish at Skate America last October, she spoke boldly and admirably about the pressure she felt.
“You don’t often see – there aren’t that many – you just don’t see overweight figure skaters for a reason,” she said. “It’s just something I’ve struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons. 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.”
A journalist picked up immediately on her use of the word “overweight,” saying correctly and appropriately that Gold looked slim.
“Oh, that’s lovely, thank you,” she replied. “It’s just not what’s required for this sport. It’s a lean body sport and it’s just not what I have currently, but, thank you.”
Upheaval and uncertainty have followed her since. She could never regain her footing on the ice, finishing a dismal sixth at the 2017 national championships in January just a year after winning her second U.S. title. She missed the world championships for the first time in five years.
“When she was skating well, she was magical,” long-time U.S. Olympic coach Frank Carroll, who coached Gold for four seasons before an abrupt split at the end of the 2017 national championships, said in a phone interview earlier this week.
“You said to yourself, ‘Oh my God, she’s gorgeous. She looks like a movie star. She has such joie de vivre.’ Then you ask yourself what happened to that. I hope she can find happiness.”
Gold is one of the most financially successful figure skaters of her era, with various sponsors including Red Bull, Smucker’s and Nike.
After leaving Carroll’s training site in Los Angeles, she moved to Detroit to train with coaches Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein in suburban Canton, Mich.
In addition to Gold’s personal struggles, her father Carl, a Springfield, Ill., anesthesiologist, has been dealing with unwelcome attention. His medical license was suspended in February, according to the State Journal-Register in Springfield. The suspension, which prevents Carl Gold from practicing medicine for at least a year, was triggered by what state officials said was a violation of a June 2016 consent order that said the state was informed by the U.S. Department of Justice that Carl Gold “diverted Schedule II Controlled Substances” from a Decatur, Ill., hospital “for personal use.”