Gracie Gold, the Olympic figure skater whose career was halted by a battle with mental illness, received a standing ovation on Friday night at the United States national championships after completing a stirring free skate.
Gold, 24, a 2014 Olympian who won a bronze medal in the team competition, was considered a favorite to win the women’s singles gold at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But the year before, she had to abandon her bid to make the American team and enter an inpatient therapy clinic in Arizona to address an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.
Gold finished the overall competition on Friday in Greensboro, N.C., in 12th place among 18 skaters, scoring 161.75 points. Alysa Liu, 14, repeated as the national champion with 235.52 points, with Mariah Bell (225.21) in second and Bradie Tennell (220.86) in third.
Ahead of the 2019 nationals, Gold began a comeback attempt and detailed her struggles in a New York Times article. Though eligible to compete at those championships, she decided she was not ready and withdrew two weeks before they started. To enter this year’s nationals in Greensboro, she had to go through lower-rung qualifying events for the first time since 2011.
In Thursday’s short program, Gold finished 13th, delivering a wobbly performance. Nevertheless, that represented a victory for Gold, a two-time national champion who had not competed in such a significant event since 2017.
As she said in an interview with The Times last month, “Yes, things could be better, but look how far I’ve come.”
Then came Gold’s long program on Friday night, which was set to Sara Bareilles’s “She Used to Be Mine.” After skating fluidly and with confidence, Gold downgraded some of her jumps but completed four triples.
She began tearing up when she heard the audience applauding. Gold said it was unlike anything she had ever heard before as a competitor.
“The full audience pulling for my existence, like, on the ice,” she said in an interview with NBC’s Andrea Joyce.