By Todd Kortemeier | Feb. 22, 2019, 11:20 a.m. (ET)

Gracie Gold skates at NBC's TODAY Show on Feb. 8, 2017 in New York City.

 

Even as she was thrilling figure skating fans at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, helping Team USA win a bronze medal in the team event, Gracie Gold felt she couldn’t shake feelings of being a “fraud.”

“I was ‘America’s sweetheart’ or I was ‘the golden girl,’ and I just, I was afraid to be real with my struggles because then I wouldn’t be, like, as perfect as the media saw me,” Gold told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in a “TODAY” interview that aired Friday morning. 

The interview was the first time the 23-year-old has, on camera, detailed the personal struggles that have kept her mostly off the ice over the past two seasons. Those struggles began shortly after Sochi and included battles with depression and an eating disorder that started with an offhanded remark from a coach.

“It just got more and more extreme until it was just like, unbearable,” she said.

A fourth-place finish at the 2016 world championships – her second consecutive time finishing just off the podium at a major international competition – proved to be a crushing result for the rising star.

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“It was everything,” Gold said. “It was just one of those things where I couldn’t be the best in the world.”

Gold continued to train, but her mental health worsened. At one point, she even papered over mirrors so she would not have to look at herself. She withdrew from planned competitions, including the 2018 national championships at which she had been a two-time champion. Gold entered treatment at that point, providing her a much-needed respite from the ice.

“I just needed some time apart from skating,” Gold said. “Because I blamed skating for a long time, but like it wasn’t skating’s fault. It didn’t ruin my life. I allowed my behavior while I was skating to ruin my own life.”

While acknowledging she still struggles with those feelings – “Treatment and therapy isn’t like this magic wand where it’s just like, fixed,” she says – Gold feels well enough to be back on the ice with her sights on returning to the sport’s biggest stages.

“The Beijing Games in 2022 would be like the ultimate dream,” she said. “And if I could win a world medal … winning a world medal would almost be more important to me than going to another Olympics.”

Indeed a world medal is one thing still missing from Gold’s resume. But whatever the piece of hardware in question, Gold said it feels good just to be dreaming about medals, competitions and just living a normal life once again.

“I actually go out in the world freely (now),” Gold said, “with some importance and let’s see if we can do something with our life today, let’s see if we can get this back on track.”

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.