As formidable a competitor as Gracie Gold is, she’s proven herself to be an even stronger person.
Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon, two of Gold’s close friends, praised the Olympic bronze medalist for her decision earlier this month to take time away from figure skating to seek professional help. Gold did not give details on what kind of help she was seeking, but she has spoken about her struggles with body issues.
“Taking a step back and actually taking time to focus on herself, as an athlete that’s one of the hardest decisions to make,” Wagner said Monday at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s media summit. “It really is just a statement to how strong that girl is, and people don’t give her enough credit for that.”
The timing of Gold’s announcement was as much a surprise as her decision to take time off. It came less than six months before the start of the Pyeongchang Games, the pinnacle of Olympic athletes’ careers. Some elite athletes have pushed through injuries and put off surgeries for fear it could affect their chances of making the Olympic team.
But Wagner said when Gold talked with her and Rippon before making her announcement, it was clear she’d reached a point where “she was ready to feel better.”
“To be able to take a step back during your Olympic season, that just goes to show how much she needed a change,” Wagner said. “Whenever anyone is ever willing to get help to fix their lives, that’s admirable and never something that should be questioned.”
Gold is a two-time U.S. champion, and was part of the U.S. squad that was fourth in the Sochi team competition. But her career has been on a downward spiral since the 2016 world championships, when a dismal performance in the free skate dropped her from first to fourth.
She finished sixth at last year’s national championships and failed to make the world championships team for the first time in five years.
Gold hasn’t said when she’ll return. She’s entered in two Grand Prix events, the Cup of China and Trophee de France, both of which are in November.
But Rippon said figure skating, and even the Olympics, should be the least of Gold’s concerns.
“You are so much more than an athlete,” he said. “If we’re lucky, we can skate for 30-plus years. If we’re also very fortunate, we’ll live for 100 years. That’s such a small portion of your life. If you aren’t enjoying it and if you aren’t happy and you know that you’re not healthy, it’s not good. It’s not right.
“I so respect her,” Rippon added. “More than that, I admire her for being brave and sharing that with the world that she was going to be doing that.”
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.