ASTON, Pa. – The day she covered all the mirrors of her new apartment because she could not stand the sight of herself, it was a red flag.

But no one was there to record it.

And Gracie Gold, an ice skater who was once on the verge of becoming an Olympic star, was not in a position to take control of herself.

Reassembled in a suburb of Detroit, she turned off the lights so often, she says, that the electricity bill a month was less than $ 20. She slept until 24 hours at a time, then stayed awake for three nights in a row.

A good day was when she managed to brush her teeth and hair.

His dream of an Olympic Gold Medal? That had evaporated a long time ago, as she was striving to stay focused on it.

In 2014, Gold was a charismatic teenager prodigy, hailed as an athletic Grace Kelly because of her blond little bun, her bright red lipstick and her majestic look, her so brilliant personality that she sometimes blinded to the fact that she did not win an individual Olympic medal.

Three years later, in the dark. a Michigan winter, Gold felt her world come closer to her. She was hiding from her family, gorging herself on forbidden food and, with the next Olympics in less than a year, not wanting – or could not – a few days, even the energy needed to drive the practice track less than 15 minutes away.

On the occasion, Gold declared, revealing for the first time the depths of her mental illness, that she imagined committing suicide and no one would find her body until the owner had come recover it rent.

"I was suicidal for months," said Gold, adding, "If I had just pursued my life in Detroit, I would probably be dead.

This week, the country's greatest figure skaters gathered in Detroit. for the national championships, and gold had planned to be among them, plotting the first chapter of his sequel. But she did not come back. Not yet.

As Gold discovered, mental health is a slippery slope and she is still trying to find her foot.

Before Gold's life began to crumble, she could not understand mental illness . "I heard someone say," I'm so depressed "and I would think," Hard to bear, "she said.

This attitude is typical of high-level athletes Caroline Silby, a sports psychologist who was a national-level skater, did not treat Gold, but worked with prodigies like her.

"Part is predestined", said Silby, "DNA is such that these people would be confronted with these problems regardless of their Olympic prowess, some of which are developed through habits and practices that fuel the sporting pursuit of the world. excellence, but keep them away from healthy and productive non-athletes. "

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, NBA Star player DeMar DeRozan and ski champion Lindsey Vonn are among those who have opened up about their fight against depression.

Gold, 23, decided last fall that she was ready to speak in public. about his ordeal, including an unhealthy relationship with food that, at the lowest point, led to extreme weight gain. She spent a series of interviews, displaying her ironic sense of humor but very little skin, wearing loose fitting sweatshirts and long sleeves as well as jackets that camouflaged her physique.

Gold had lost more than half the extra weight, but remained too aware of it, she says, to wear something as revealing as a tank top or shorts .

The place where Gold feels most comfortable is the ice. She returned nine months ago, armed with new ideas, coping mechanisms and a reorganized support team that, she hopes, will help her better navigate the Olympic ambitions that she has never completely abandoned, even at its lowest level.

] To ensure his eligibility for the national championships, Gold participated in a high-level event in Moscow last fall, against his coach's recommendation. Whether for a program or for his life, Gold is drawn to dramatic stories, and this one was particularly irresistible: Detroit, where his collapse accelerated, would serve as a backdrop to his return.

But Gold was not ready.

She retired from the national championships two weeks before skating. His performance in Moscow contributed to the decision. With less than seven months of continuing education behind her, she presented a short program so irregular that she retired from the competition before the long program.

Gold also realized that she did not like the idea of ​​returning to Michigan. . She is so haunted by the memories of her stay there that she said that she had made a trip to California in December to visit her mother and twin sister because her initial itinerary made her had ordered to fly through Detroit.

In this Stygian apartment, she did not begin her problems.

Gold and her twin, Carly, were born 40 minutes apart on August 17, 1995. Her family later said it was natural for Gracie to clear the way out of the womb. Throughout her childhood, she was determined to be first and flawless.

In the class, she would erase furiously and in tears a whole sentence if she spelled a single word. In Grade 2, she found an outlet for her compulsivity by taking skating lessons at an ice rink near the family home in Springfield, Missouri.

Carly followed her a few months later in the sport and well, but never competed with her sister. Unlike Gracie, she was more connected to pleasure than perfection.

"She did not cross the lines that had to be crossed to be an elite athlete," said Gracie about her twin. "She did not go beyond the normality and fell into the realm of madness."

Gold's skating ambitions have led to several moves in the country over the past decade. Throughout her adolescence, she was accompanied everywhere by her sister and mother, Denise, a retired nurse from the emergency department. Twins' skating schedules occupied Denise's life and left their father, Carl, an anesthesiologist who had remained in Missouri, a parent who was funding the weekend to fund his children's fledgling career.

"I remember our stay in Illinois. A psychologist said, "Can not you go see another coach in the area?" Said Gold's mother. "And I said," No, skating is not like that. Around the world, only a few coaches are world-class. "

By the time the gold appeared, American figure skating, which had formed an unbroken series of Olympic medalists in women, including champions, from 1968 to 2006 – was mired in a drought and the popularity of this sport in the United States was regressing.

Gold was perceived as a person who could reverse the fortunes of America, a personality to the fore mold of Kelly, the Hollywood star turned royal princess Gold never saw it this way, but the comparison seemed compelling and she quickly reflected on what others have seen, describing Kelly as an icon of her style in interviews

"I almost created this other person," said Gold, adding, "I wanted to be the most irreproachable, angelic, plastic, Barbie doll face, who does that say all the b Onnes things and does all that is good and people just do not like it because it's so perfect. "

until it has the age of 39; Adolescent, Gold said, she did not focus on her weight and never counted calories.Before training, she regularly sipped a box of chocolate milk before training and then burned her quickly on her growing body.

Then, one day, she weighed herself in front of a trainer, a common practice, the scale was 124 pounds. "That's a big number" , she recalls.

Bitten by this remark, Gold searched the Internet for tips on losing weight, stumbled upon a website where people, mostly young women, shared strategies. Extreme Weight Control In an article, someone wrote about consuming 200 to 400 calories per day. Gold felt its competitiveness move up a gear.

"It all started with me, being dramatic and testing the waters," says Gold, "as if I was wondering if I could do it."

She reduced her food intake from about 2,000 calories a day to a few hundred, ignoring her mother's warnings that there was no "magic diet" and remained several days with a meal consisting of a tomato and several cups of coffee.

"The more weight I lost, the faster I felt on the ice," said Gold. "It was win-win, because I skated better and people said," You look great. "

Gold's mother thought her daughter was getting too thin and she remembered having urged Gracie to eat more at home before the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"It was a disturbing situation," said Denise Gold.

Gold stated that she weighed 118 pounds when, in quick succession, she won her first national title, helps the United States to win bronze in the team event in Sochi and finishes fourth in the women's singles competition.

The next two years are marked by a wave of Fashion shows and celebrity rubs, with the likes of pop singer Taylor Swift, followed by the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships in Boston, and after winning her second national title, Gold seemed poised to become the first american in a decade to win a medal in singles at the event.

But after finishing first in the short program, Gold hesitates. his first run in the free skating program and dropped to fourth place, two places behind another American, Ashley Wagner, who skated exquisitely.

Gold was devastated.

"It was not just his pain. "Denise Gold said enough to feed her daughter's overwhelming disappointment." It was her family's pain, it was her agent's pain, it was the pain of the country. everyone. "

Within a few months, Gold's body and her psyche began to deteriorate.In the summer of 2016, she arrived in Colorado Springs to attend a Regular monitoring sessions of elite skaters in the United States – a sort of boot camp, if you will – with 20 pounds more on its 5-foot-5 frame and a glow – almost perpetually.

Gold was depressed and its increasingly deteriorated relationship with food now included cycles of binge eating, and Wagner, his rival, said recently, "There is no had no one at home, and it was scary to see. "

Wagner warned a skating official that Gold looked sick and needed help. Sam Auxier, president of the United States in figure skating at the time, said the association, which puts licensed psychologists and other specialists at the disposal of athletes struggling with problems of mental health, acted quickly. But attempts to help Gold, he said, were going nowhere.

"I do not know if being more energetic with Gracie would have worked," explained Auxier, "just because she was in such denial."

In retrospect, Gold said that she should have taken a leave in 2016. But with other Olympics on the horizon, she tried to stay the course.

"You want people to see your pain so that they see you need help," said Gold, "but you do not want to ask for it." So, you live in this kind of terrible limbo. "

Gold's facade was completely collapsed during another surveillance session in Colorado Springs at the # 39, Summer 2017.

Distorted after being isolated in Michigan, Gold looked like the Grim Reaper on ice, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and endowed with 50 pounds in too much.

His spit spins and jumps, long regarded as spectacular, land with a thud.

Perhaps worse than the weight gain was what she had lost Gold's smile, as bright as a jump or a spin, was no longer reaching the corners of his mouth, let alone the highest part of the arena.

When the judges delivered their criticisms, some could not hold back their tears. Gold interpreted their comments as accusations. "And that's when I cracked," she said.

 They have found that they have been sentenced to jail and at some unknown time: "Can any one see the appeal to help today?" 

One of the judges confirmed the story of Gold for that day. Two camp support staff quickly contacted Gold to convince her to delay her career and seek treatment. After one month, she enrolled in an inpatient eating disorder treatment program, the cost of which was covered by American figure skating. "Because I thought it could literally not get worse or that I was going to die and wanted to live."

Gold stated that she was absent from her sport. Then she disappeared.

"I just dropped the surface of the earth for 45 days," she said. "It was liberating."

After a year in the fog of the Depression, Gold is delighted with the structure of a daily program that was spreading from 7 am until 10 pm She attended intensive therapy, including sessions with her parents. She moved away at about the same time that her father's medical license was suspended after state control authorities declared that he had stolen prescription drugs for personal gain.

These days, gold is in better condition with his family. She received a prescription from Prozac at Meadows, but she said she was weaned from it. And, whatever the weather, she arrives at the rink with rimless orange sunglasses, giving her a better perspective.

Gold returned to skating because she was looking for the type of structure that had anchored her during treatment. Last spring, she moved to the Philadelphia area for a fresh start with a new coach, Vincent Restencourt, who trusted her by insisting she gradually reverse her weight gain. He insists on eating with Gold at least once a week and, on their first meal together, he persuades her to eat at least half a hamburger, stressing that she should not get in shape again.

Since. In June, Gold lost more than 30 pounds, the result of a combination of healthier foods, she says, not a fad diet.

She teaches skating lessons to young children and adults, trains with teenagers and wonders what they

"When I was their age, did "I have never had a semi-tired Olympian suffering from mental illness on my rink."

The return is very much like a departure. from scratch. The first time Gold performed a pure triple Lutz, she felt an immense sense of accomplishment. "You forget how magical these moments are," she said.

Whenever Gold returns to the competition, she will have a new long program, one that she planned to unveil in Detroit. She is placed in the song "She used to be mine" by Sara Bareilles, which she found in her mother's reading list.

As Gold moves forward in her life, the lyrics remind her of why she needed to step back: "She is tough on herself. She is broken and will not ask for help. She is messy, but she is kind. She is alone most of the time. "