Gracie Gold Is Skating In the Olympics After a Mental Health Hiatus

Beauty

Figure skating is a sport that rewards perfection. From gravity-defying triple jumps to Swarovski-studded costumes, every detail counts. Gracie Gold, who won a team bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and secured two National titles by the age of 20, made sure she pushed herself to the brink to meet (and often exceed) every expectation. Ice, however, is slippery — and getting up after a catastrophic fall from grace is hard (if not impossible) when everything rests on your reputation and a four-millimeter blade.

Once crowned America’s ice princess, the figure skater took time out of the spotlight to address what she describes as her “Q1 crisis.” After battling depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, things finally came to a head at a 2017 training camp. Not only was Gold’s skating well below the high standard she had previously set, but she was also mentally and emotionally deteriorating, going so far as to scream at judges after receiving a harsh critique — an event that ultimately served as a reality check for everyone involved. Shortly thereafter, Gold was admitted to a treatment center in Arizona, all costs covered by U.S. Figure Skating, according to a lengthy profile by The New York Times in which she discussed the many factors that contributed to her meltdown as well as her decision to return to the rink. After a three-year hiatus from competition, Gold recently resurfaced at the 2020 U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina.

While there is no shortage of drama in figure skating, stories like Gold’s aren’t ones you hear often. And you certainly don’t hear them being told so candidly. Instead, struggle, disappointment, pain, and a myriad of other perfectly human emotions that don’t ascribe to the sport’s narrow definition of what a champion looks, acts, and sounds like are camouflaged behind picture-perfect smiles and scripted responses. Gold, however, is unapologetically getting real — which is not only refreshing but necessary. “I thought depression was for people who were homeless or people who had lost their jobs — that’s part of the stigma,” Gold tells Allure. “When in fact, an alteration of brain chemistry can happen to anyone.” Even gold medal winners.

Gold’s long-awaited comeback spurred two standing ovations from fans, but the cheers (and quite a few tears) were less to do with her performance and all about appreciating her authenticity, grit, and unflappable strength. Perhaps the new tattoo on her rib cage that could be seen peeking out from under her sparkling costume sums up her story best. “It’s a moth because they always find the light,” explains Gold minutes after leaving the ice after her long program. While her signature red lip and liquid liner remain intact (fitting, seeing as she’s the face of Julep’s Eyes On the Prize campaign), they might be two of the only things that haven’t changed for her. Instead of “five-year plans,” she’s taking life one day at a time and doing everything on her own terms. “I just want to keep going up to see how far it goes,” she says. “Maybe this is it, but maybe there’s so much more.” It’s likely the latter, seeing as Gold is now headed to the Olympics, but we’ll allow her to live in the moment.

Before and after Gold took to the ice in Greensboro, the figure skater discussed depression, her comeback, and why wine and a face mask is “peak self-care” with Allure.

Before taking a break from figure skating, you said that you put on a “flawless, angelic, plastic, Barbie-doll face” for the public. When did you decide that being your authentic self was enough?When I announced my comeback, I felt like there wasn’t a need to make anything palatable or reframe the story so that it fit into that Hallmark movie mold of ice skating. I guess that’s when it all started. I didn’t say, ‘Today, I’m going to be me.’ I no longer needed a façade or some sort of marketability angle, especially right after treatment because I wasn’t skating competitively at the time.