I love figure skating. I grew up idolizing Dorothy Hamill, and like most teenage girls in the late 1970’s, I copied her famous haircut. Over the years, I watched Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Michelle Kwan become champions. And in January of 2016, I was in the audience watching breathlessly as Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu and Gracie Gold represented the U.S. at the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston. These athletes not only inspire me, but also my daughter who is following her own dreams as a competitive figure skater. The grace, power and artistry of figure skating continue to captivate me.
I was really sad when my daughter texted me the news that Gracie Gold, a 2014 Winter Olympics bronze medalist, announced she was taking a break from competition because she is suffering from anxiety, depression and an eating disorder.
Those who follow skating closely know that Gracie’s been struggling publicly since a fateful outcome in the 2016 World Championships. A U.S. national champion in 2014, she lost her title in 2015, reclaimed it in 2016, and entered the 2016 World Championships with everyone expecting her to win. After the short program, she was in first place. But a disastrous performance in the free skate kept her off the medal podium, landing her in fourth place overall. She did not hide her disappointment and was, what one report called, “mercilessly self-critical.”
Gracie seemed to unravel in the season that followed, performing below expectations in nearly all competitions. She attributed her poor performances to not being in shape and even went so far as calling herself “overweight,” a comment she later clarified as being more related to her assessment of her fitness level for competition than her body weight. Another troubled performance in the 2017 national competition ended with Frank Carroll, her coach of four years, deciding it was time to part ways.
In an article posted in January 2017, Coach Carroll was quoted as saying, “She has been in a deep, deep, deep depression.” In that same article, Gracie called what she was going through, “a funk..