Four years ago, Gracie Gold was in the stands when the U.S. figure skating team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics was named.
Just months earlier, Gold – who won U.S. national titles in 2014 and 2016 – announced that she was taking time away from figure skating to seek professional help for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder.
But in the stands at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, Gold was reminded of why she loved the sport, a feeling that encouraged her to resume training.
That spring, the Massachusetts native moved to Aston, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth return to the ice. At the 2018 Rostelecom Cup in November, she struggled in the short program and withdrew ahead of the free skate.
She then opted out of the 2019 U.S. Championships.
“When I first put skates on after going into treatment, I felt unsafe to do other doubles. That’s where we were,” Gold reflected on Thursday night.
A year later, Gold was in a much better place, having taken a longer route to get there. To qualify for the 2020 U.S. Championships, she had to compete at regionals, and then Eastern sectionals – a circuitous route for someone who was once the prodigal darling of U.S. Figure Skating.
She went on to finish 12th at 2020 U.S. Championships, followed by a 13th-place performance in 2021.
And on Thursday night in Nashville, she delivered a strong – and clean! – short program, which earned her a standing ovation.
“I really think the last clean short (program) I did at Nationals was in 2014,” Gold remarked, adding with a laugh, “I did not train double run-throughs at (age) 26 to mess up another short.”
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) January 7, 2022
Gold currently sits in sixth (67.61 points) heading into Friday night’s women’s free skate (8pm ET, NBC). At the conclusion of the competition, three women will be named to the 2022 U.S. Olympic figure skating team. Mariah Bell currently leads the way (75.55), followed by Karen Chen (74.55) and Alysa Liu (71.42).
Bell and Chen said they both caught a glimpse of Gold’s short program as they were preparing to take the ice on Thursday.
“I was genuinely so happy for her,” Bell said. “I don’t know all of the things that she went through, but I know it was very tough.”
“I respect her so much,” said Liu, who was eight years old when Gold made her Olympic debut. “She really put herself out there and that’s really brave of her.”
NBC Olympics researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.