Two-time U.S. national figure skating champion Gracie Gold, 21, is no stranger to competition:
She's also very familiar with the pressure that comes with competing against the best.
However, in a recent interview, after the star skater finished fifth at Skate America on Saturday, she revealed something about herself that many didn't know:
Something so shocking that it nearly left reporters speechless.
In preparation for the 16 months before the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Gold said her biggest hurdle would be getting back in shape and the overwhelming pressure she feels to do so:
“We just need to adjust my physical shape and mental shape to see if the program can be salvaged for the rest of the year."
Gold continued, touching on some deeper issues:
“You don’t often see — there aren’t that many — you just don’t see overweight figure skaters for a reason. It’s just something I’ve struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons. It’s just difficult when you’re trying to do the difficult triple jumps. It’s something that I am addressing but it’s obviously not where it should be for this caliber of competition.”
It was here that a journalist was left jarred by her “overweight” comment, telling Gold that she looks slim.
“Oh, that’s lovely, thank you. It’s just not what’s required for this sport. It’s a lean body sport and it’s just not what I have currently, but, thank you.
This summer, I just wasn’t in athletic shape mentally and certainly not physically, just dealing with after Worlds. But I have all the support that I need. I just have to rely on them more.”
It was revealed by those close to Gold that she had dropped some pounds shortly before the Skate America competition last week.
In an effort to understand where the champion figure skater was coming from with her comments, Christine Brennan, a USA Today sports writer who covered the initial story on Gold, decided to interview Ashley Wagner, Gold's American teammate and rival.
The 25-year-old Wagner said:
“I would have to say every athlete has that one Mount Everest that they have to climb,” Wagner said. “For me, it was deciding to leave my house and take my skating over for myself. That was my biggest challenge and that’s what turned me into the athlete I am today.
For her, I think that losing that world title was devastating for her, understandably, because she had it and then the next day, she didn’t. The hardest part about all of this is you see someone struggling and hurting and no one can help her right now except for herself. It’s going to be her having enough and getting herself out of it. I think that we have a very supportive federation and everyone is doing their best to give her the tools that she needs to get through this. But it’s going to come down to her wanting to use them and getting ready to let go."
Wagner, a familiar face to the podium, having taken home the silver medal in the 2016 World competition, said she feels nothing but empathy for her friend and rival:
“You know, at the end of the day, a person’s a person and you see them in pain, you want to do whatever you can to help out. We’re not very close but I think she’s a sweet girl and I think that she just kind of needs to find a way to push through this. She’s an awesome athlete and I respect her so much for what she is capable of.
This is not the end of Gracie, I know that for a fact.”
It's clear that Wagner was not the only one concerned with Gold's comments.
In the wake of Gold's interview, fans became concerned, too, since Gold already has a very slim physique and was now “confessing” that she needed to lose more weight.
In response to her fans, Gold took to her Instagram::
“To all my fans and friends. Thank you for the concern you have voiced. My comments in the mixed zone were spoken in the heat of emotion. To clarify, I feel that my results this far in the season are a result of my decision to live a more 'normal life' this past summer. I traveled and really took time off from being an elite athlete. For a figure skater, there is an ideal body weight for top performance. It's different for each athlete. That doesn't mean scary skinny, but rather a lean, wiry composition. I realize that I am at a healthy weight and I am rapidly regaining the strength and tone I desire. I just started back a little later than I needed to for peak fitness in October. In reading Christine Brennan's story I realize that I came across pretty negatively. In fact, rather than being unhappy with my programs, I think they are the best I've ever had! I remain committed to my sport and quest for World and Olympic success.”
For now, Gold will continue to focus her efforts on qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held in South Korea.