NYT: Gracie Gold’s Battle for Olympic Glory Ended in a Fight to Save Herself

barbk

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/25/...&module=trending&pgtype=Article&region=Footer
"Gold’s facade crumbled entirely at another Colorado Springs monitoring session in the summer of 2017.
Out of shape after isolating herself in Michigan, Gold took the ice looking like the Grim Reaper, wearing a hoodie and carrying 50 extra pounds.
Her spins sputtered and her jumps, long considered spectacular, landed with a thud.
Perhaps worse than the weight gain was what she had lost. Gold’s smile, one as dazzling as any jump or spin, no longer reached the corners of her mouth, much less the upper reaches of the arena.
When the judges delivered their critiques, some could not hold back tears. Gold interpreted their comments as accusations. “And that’s when I snapped,” she said.
She remembers sobbing, cursing and at one point screaming, “Can’t anybody see the cry for help that is my existence right now?”
One of the judges confirmed Gold’s account of that day. Two members of the camp’s support staff soon approached Gold, persuading her to delay her career and seek treatment. Within a month, she entered an inpatient program for eating disorders, its cost covered by U.S. Figure Skating."
 
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DimaToe

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I wish the best for Gracie. It takes a lot of strength to share so much about your struggles in such a public way. A lot is to be learned by future elite level athletes and their team from her story. A detail in the story I guess, but I hope that Wagner runs USFS sooner rather than later. In the “most” important season in skating it would have been easy to ignore everything and focus on the prize, yet Wagner sought help for Gold. Olympic sports in general needs more of that outlook with their future leadership. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if 20 years from now Gold and Wagner are running the show.
 

Japanfan

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I can't read the NYT without subscribing.

But re the 50 extra pounds posted above - Gracie didn't have 50 extra pounds in the pictures and videos I've seen of her, maybe 10 pounds I would guess, 20 max. 50 extra pounds is a lot for a tiny woman, approximately half her body weight presuming that Gracie was no more than 110 when competing (I've not idea of what her actual weight was but she was certainly lean).
 

CantALoop

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That first sentence hit me like a punch in the gut - I did that very same thing when I was spiraling out of control.

I never came close to being an Olympian, but Gracie seems to be of a similar mindset - we're so used to handling our own problems and toughing it out that we don't even think of seeking help, and when offered help, we're hesitant to take it because we're so used to being self-reliant.

“I don’t know if being more forceful with Gracie would have worked,” Auxier said, “just because she was in such denial.”

They should've been more forceful then. The only thing that snapped me out of my depression and binge eating was when my boyfriend broke down in tears that he wished he could help but he didn't know how. That finally shocked me out of it enough to admit I needed help.
 

GullyGirl84

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I kept waiting for one question to be answered: Where the eff was Marina during all of Gracie’s time in Michigan?

This. I also remember being less than impressed with Gracie's team that they had her do an "Everything's fine!" media tour (Today Show, ESPN W article) after 2017 nationals when she made the coaching change.

One thing that I was unclear about what when Ashley told USFS officials that it seemed like something was wrong with Gracie. The article makes it sound like it was at Champs Camp in 2016 (and not 2017).
 

wickedwitch

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I kept waiting for one question to be answered: Where the eff was Marina during all of Gracie’s time in Michigan?
Seriously! That's what I kept asking.

Frank and the USFSA were at least trying to help Gracie. It doesn't seem like Marina cared at all.
 

canbelto

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I also hate to say this but these problems do not develop overnight. It doesn't sound like Frank Carroll OR Marina Zueva offered her any support at all. The fact that she does not mention them once as people were supportive speaks volumes and is very sad.
 

wickedwitch

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I also hate to say this but these problems do not develop overnight. It doesn't sound like Frank Carroll OR Marina Zueva offered her any support at all. The fact that she does not mention them once as people were supportive speaks volumes and is very sad.
We know Frank tried to pull her from competing in 2016-2017.
 

GullyGirl84

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So are we assuming that Alex was the one who made the "that's a big number" comment that triggered her disordered eating? If so, it's interesting in the context that she trained briefly with Alex again before 2017 nationals. Between this and Hannah's recent interview, and Adam's comments about eating one piece of bread a day, I feel like this type of behavior is probably sadly so common in the figure skating community. OMG, how clueless was it for Marina to give Gracie a "People" program during all of this?
 

canbelto

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Marina Zueva said in an interview that she only works with "good students." Her biggest successes (G&G, Virtue/Moir, Davis/White, Shibsibs) I have a feeling are naturally self-motivated and (this is important) also were each others' support. I feel like she labeled Gracie as a head case and gave up on her quickly. Also if that stuff was happening with her dad funds might have been tight and Zueva might not have been paid as well ...

But still, disappointing that Gracie got to that point at all. Come on figure skating. Do better. Be better.
 

twizzletoes76

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I think I have more sympathy now for Gracie after reading this article than I did before. I actually don’t like it when phrases are tossed around like “we need to give more attention to mental health issues” or “that was so brave of someone to open up about their struggles” because I think such thinking de-personalizes what people go through—and makes mental health issues sound generic. For this reason, I appreciate the way Gracie opened up to the journalist for this piece and even offered details like how she was living in the dark for stretches at a time that many would be afraid to mention—as it offers greater insight into what she was experiencing. (I wonder, too, if maybe some of what Gracie was experiencing was seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and not just regular depression.) I also like that the journalist did not shy away from mentioning the legal issues Gracie’s dad was facing—as I imagine that was an issue that many in skating media would not even want to touch—and I’m sure that affected Gracie deeply. Anyways, I wish Gracie well and I hope she can steer clear from engaging in any type of self-sabotaging behaviors in the future—and continue to grow and re-invent herself. I remember seeing her in training many times leading up to the Sochi Olympics and I thought she looked healthy and fit then (both physically and mentally) so I can imagine just how caught off guard the judges or others in the skating community, like Ashley, must have felt when they saw Gracie—a seemingly put together person—start to spiral off track. That must have been hard to witness up close, especially if a person is in denial, and I do commend USFSA for offering compensation for Gracie’s residential program—as often the costs of treatment places like that can be prohibitive.
 

Firedancer

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I kept waiting for one question to be answered: Where the eff was Marina during all of Gracie’s time in Michigan?

I wondered about this too. How could Marina not notice/just ignore Gracie struggling!

It was so sad reading about how Gracie struggled. I truly wish her the best in her continued recovery!
 

yunasashafan

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We also know he threw her jacket away and publicly fired her.

I’m not impressed with his response

If I remember correctly, he also made some comment about her being depressed around the same time.

If Ashley alerted USFSA in summer 2016, and the comment and the jacket incident were happening in late 2016/early 2017, then I am not impressed either. The timing of the comment about weight makes it possible to be either Alex or Frank (ETA or Marina actually since she spent some time with her before going to Frank) ....I do remember that she seemed to lose weight around the time she switched.
 

genevieve

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Frank also coached Christopher Bowman and I think lost his tolerance for mental health struggles a long time ago. Not excusing his reaction, but he has shown in the past that he is quick to cut the relationship when a student starts melting down (see: Goebel).
 

bardtoob

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I am glad USFSA paid for Gracie's residential treatment.

I am inclined to believe that nobody was sufficiently empowered to intervene and Gracie denied having a plan to injure herself or others. Maybe USFSA should contract with a licensed psychotherapist in ever state that can enact 72 hour evaluations and such.

Frank, for 9 months, told her and her mother to get treatment for depression but couldn't force her, and Frank also made a public comment, which only made him look bad but did not cause anybody empowered to get Gracie to treatment.

Were people (agents, etc.) around Gracie too worried about fallout from treatment news to be willing to facilitate or actually let her go to treatment.

Where was Gracie's mom?
 
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Jay42

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I can't read the NYT without subscribing.

But re the 50 extra pounds posted above - Gracie didn't have 50 extra pounds in the pictures and videos I've seen of her, maybe 10 pounds I would guess, 20 max. 50 extra pounds is a lot for a tiny woman, approximately half her body weight presuming that Gracie was no more than 110 when competing (I've not idea of what her actual weight was but she was certainly lean).
Gracie has been wearing a lot of clothes that cover her whole body and are generally very dark so I think it would be hard to notice exactly how much weight she had gained just by looking. If Gracie says she was 50 pounds overweight I believe her.
I am glad USFSA paid for Gracie's residential treatment.

I am inclined to believe that nobody was sufficiently empowered to intervene and Gracie denied having a plan to injure herself or others. Maybe USFSA should contract with a licensed psychotherapist in ever state that can enact 72 hour evaluations and such.

Frank, for 9 months, told her and her mother to get treatment for depression but couldn't force her, and Frank also made a public comment, which only made him look bad but did not cause anybody empowered to get Gracie to treatment.

Were people (agents, etc.) around Gracie too worried about fallout from treatment news to be willing to facilitate or actually let her go to treatment.

Where was Gracie's mom?
The article does mention she became estranged from her parents for a while so maybe it was around that time?
 

bardtoob

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Gracie has been wearing a lot of clothes that cover her whole body and are generally very dark so I think it would be hard to notice exactly how much weight she had gained just by looking. If Gracie says she was 50 pounds overweight I believe her.

The article does mention she became estranged from her parents for a while so maybe it was around that time?

I appreciate this observation.
 

peibeck

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That hardly makes what Frank Carroll did okay.

Erm, as I recall Gracie told him to throw it away. He did, then she retrieved it later.

Not saying Frank deserves sainthood, forgiveness or... anything. But having suffered through suicidal bouts of depressions myself, I know how easy it is to lash out in anger and frustration when you are beating yourself up mentally inside. Since we weren't there, we don't know how much Frank did, or did not try and help. Even if someone is trying to help you, you can recognize it; but when you feel like you are insignificant and dying inside, you often feel so powerless to change your situation.

I can only relate my own situation to you, but for me, I felt like I was trapped in a deep, deep, dark well, treading water tirelessly with the water over my chin, able to see a tiny spot of light, but never believing I'd be able to escape that darkness and simply feeling so exhausted that I often wondered if it wouldn't be better to just let it over come me. I can very much relate to Gracie's speaking about wanting to do nothing but sleep, and being unable to sleep because the anxiety would not let you relax. It's exhausting and terrifying on top of the deep depression you feel inside.

More power to Gracie, and all those who fight this fight.
 

PDilemma

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Can we talk about the weight of expectations this story alludes to more than once? What about the press, the skating media, the fans...so many who were crowning her the 2016 Olympic champ before she ever made an Olympic team? Her name was destiny and all that nonsense?

Put that on a teenage girl who was a perfectionist long before she put on skates and what do you think will happen?

But here we go this morning. Check out Christine Brennan on Alysa Liu: "she will be eligible for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, when she will be 16 — a perfect age in women's skating."

We don't know who Alysa is yet. We don't know that she is not a perfectionist, too. We don't know what growth and time and change will do or what injuries may come. But the rest will be chasing her until the Olympics, Brennan tells us.

Gracie's story is the most public of what comes from heaping crazy expectations on young teens who might not reach them. But no one is going to learn from this. Not the press, not the fans, and not USFSA.
 

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