Thursday night at the U.S. Olympic figure skating trials, as younger women began to secure their spots on the 2022 Olympic team, another woman, an older skater whose name everyone still remembers, offered a glimpse of her magical past on her singular journey back from the depths of depression.
Gracie Gold, now 26, commanded the stage she once owned, shining brightly on the national championship ice that drew her back with the promise of just such a curtain call. If this is it for Gold, if her illustrious career comes to an end here, it will be with delight, not despair.
She has come full circle. She is skating in the final group of Friday night’s long program at another Olympic trials. Making the Olympic team is a long shot, but it doesn’t really matter. Being here, skating well, bringing the audience to their feet even before her final pose, closing her eyes and taking it all in — that is her victory.
For the first time since 2014, she skated a flawless short program, finishing sixth on a night of outstanding skating. That’s eight long years, dating back to her greatest success, when she won the first of her two national titles and went on to finish fourth in the women’s event and win a bronze medal in the team competition at the Sochi Olympics.
That is no small feat: two minutes and forty seconds of skating, spinning, jumping, and landing on a quarter-inch steel blade on slick ice. Most importantly, she executed her triple-triple jump combination flawlessly. She was everything she had hoped for.
She wasn’t sure it was going to happen a few minutes ago. She became concerned as she warmed up before her turn to skate.
“I felt more tense than I wanted to. I told myself, ‘You’ve got to calm down. You are not doing this again. You’re not doing another bad short at nationals.’ I did not train double run-throughs at 26 to mess up another short, so to really feel my training kick in and to override those nerves with sheer will and training and to actually deliver …”
She didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t need to. Her satisfaction was obvious. Gold came back and didn’t screw up. She was great again.
Gold appeared to be destined for the career of her dreams, with all of her talent, grace in the spotlight, and pitch-perfect last name.
But everything began to fall apart when the pressure of living up to expectations, as well as that name, became too much. In 2017, she underwent treatment for depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, which caused her to miss the 2018 Olympic season. She started talking about her mental health a few years before the topic exploded in the sports world and throughout our culture in the summer of 2021.
She said she hears from younger skaters “all the time, to the point where it’s sometimes overwhelming.” I’m frequently left speechless by the fact that so many people from all walks of life can relate to my story, or that a part of my story has resonated with them in such a personal way, it’s incredibly touching.”
They admire her for having the courage to speak out and for her perseverance. Not long after Gold’s comeback performance, three women in particular were asked what they thought of it. They were all busy, so it was understandable if they missed it, but they all knew exactly what had happened.
They were the top three finishers in the short program, and if everything goes as planned on Friday night, they will be the three women most likely to compete in the Olympics. They couldn’t help but look up to Gold as they grew up skating. They couldn’t help but look up to her now that they were peers.
Gracie Gold, hopefully, will never doubt herself or her place in her sport again. If she does, she only has to recall a night in early January 2022 when her competitors stopped what they were doing to watch what she was doing because no one wanted to miss it.