Figure skater Gracie Gold made her international debut at the age of 16. By the time she turned 21, she was a two-time U.S. Champion, an Olympic team silver medalist and the only American woman to win the NHK Trophy.
Then, Gold's career was put on hold as she courageously dealt with anxiety, depression and disordered eating. After returning to the ice, she has resumed her skating career and become a passionate mental health advocate.
We spoke with Gold this week in between stops on the Ice Dreams Tour, sponsored by Purely Inspired Nutrition. Along with Nancy Kerrigan, Polina Edmunds, Max Aaron and others, Gold is making stops in several Northeastern and Midwestern cities this spring and summer and performing on the ice to help combat hunger.
Get ready to hear about her plans for skating, work with mental health, favorite jumping techniques and more.
Let's get started...
The Spun: So, what are some of the details on Ice Dreams? How did you get involved and how did the first few stops of it go?
Gracie Gold: Yeah, so for the past 20 years or more, there's only been one traveling ice show. Stars on Ice decided to create another tour that just allowed more people to connect with skating. What I think is really cool about Ice Dreams is we're really trying to make a push to connect with the next generation of skaters. Any skater that's remotely in the area can sign up on IceDreamsTour.com on the "Skate With Us" tab to be in the show. That's really cool; we're not just signing a picture, taking a picture and then saying goodbye.
They can have a one-hour seminar beforehand and then take part in the show. That was one of the best parts of our first three stops, getting able to work on the ice with the local kids and the next generation and then being able to be part of the show. It felt like we made more of an impact than if we had just stopped by and skated and left.
The Spun: You mentioned connecting with the younger generation. I was wondering when you were a kid and getting into figure skating, who were some of the skaters that you looked up to or were inspired by?
GG: Growing up watching Michelle Kwan and then Sasha Cohen were kind of the two U.S. stars. What I loved about Michelle, and what I think everyone did--she won nationals like 11 times, which is crazy impressive--is that she seemed very relatable. It seemed like we knew her.
Even when I was 12 or 13, she would still skate at the rink her dad owns in California, and she was so lovely. I was just some 12-year-old on the same freestyle as Michelle Kwan and it wasn't weird. She just did her thing, and if I wanted the music, she would let me go next. If we wanted a picture or anything like that, she was so lovely and welcoming. It was inspiring and I loved her for that.
Then watching Yuna Kim and Mao Asada in 2010, that was incredible. I was at the Olympics in Sochi (in 2014) with Yuna Kim and I remember thinking "Oh my God, I watched you win in 2010 and you're right here." Those are some of the biggest names who meant a lot to me.
The Spun: Over the last few years, you've been very outspoken about mental health and an advocate for mental health. What has that journey been like for you?
GG: At first, I didn't even mean to start a conversation. I entered treatments in the summer, beginning of fall (2017), which is an uncommon time. But I just fell off the face of the Earth for 45 days, and in my press release, it said it was depression, anxiety and disordered eating. Just that generic press release sparked this conversation that nobody really had in the world of figure skating or all of Olympic sports.
It's just not really talked about that you could have a mental health crisis and be successful. A lot of times, it's met with people asking what you have to be depressed or anxious about. … I love the conversation that we're having amongst Olympians and Olympic athletes. Mental health in general is something that the world previously just didn't understand or was not very accepting of. I think that we're making big strides. I think we've come a long way but we still have pretty far to go in terms of just getting resources to athletes and coaches, making it accessible and continuing to push that it could just be a normal part of the conversation. Olympians can get the greatest physical care that they can get us, but when it comes to mental health, getting the resources to the athletes is really the next big step.
The Spun: That's actually our next question. What are the next steps that can be taken? What are you hoping to accomplish and how are you hoping to advance that conversation?
GG: When I broke my foot in the fall of 2015, I had a bone stimulator mailed to my house. I don't even know where you can get those. I don't think that if I was a regular person and I didn't have nationals coming up that that would have been something so accessible to me, and it was done for me. I had an appointment to see the best orthopedist, who was in San Diego, to get treatment. All of that was done for me. Those are not very common things. To have a bone stimulator shipped to your home is to me an example of going above and beyond.
When it comes to mental health, it seems sometimes like we're just left with 'Oh sorry, good luck with that. Hope you get help.' It's really left to the athletes or coaches or parents to find those resources to help. I just think that with the power that the USOC has and the various NGBs have, I want the mental health version of a bone stimulator shipped to my home when I'm in crisis and we have big events coming up.
The Spun: For you, what sort of wellness steps do you take for your own mental health to stay focused or make sure you're in a good headspace.
GG: For me, just having a really good support group. What I mean by that is, a support group that is not afraid to check in with me honestly. Someone that is like 'I'm seeing some of these behaviors, and it looks like a red flag. What's going on?' I sometimes find that people struggling with mental health, it's sometimes hard for us to do things for ourselves but it's a little bit easier for us to do things for other people. Making commitments that involve other--I may not go out for a run or go to the gym, but if I promised my friend who just had a baby that I would go with her, I'll put my tennis shoes on and go. I also have a cat that I have to be up early for and pay attention to and care for. Tethering myself and reality to other people helps.
The Spun: What did it mean to be able to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships back in January? What was that event like for you?
GG: It was really great to deliver such an incredible short program. I have kind of made a whole career almost out of bombing short programs and then coming back in the long program. So, I'd always wanted to skate to the music I did--"East of Eden"--and have a really incredible performance. After COVID and everything, on an Olympic year where there are more eyes on figure skating than on the years in between cycles was just really special and important to me. It was a performance I'll remember forever.
The Spun: Last question: Career-wise, what are the next steps for you? What do you have planned after this tour and looking ahead to the future?
GG: Right now, I just sort of have spring and summer planned out with the tour and some other shows and seminars. It's a pretty busy spring and summer. That's mostly taken up all my mental capacity right now. I could do another season, maybe not. I have a book coming out, a memoir, which I'm very excited about. Lots of cool things related to skating but not competitively coming up. We'll see if there's another competitive season in my future or not.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.