US skating star Gracie Gold taking time off, seeking help

U.S. figure skating star Gracie Gold is stepping away from the sport to seek professional help with the Olympics a little more than five months away.

The 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist and two-time national champion did not specify in a statement Friday to U.S. Figure Skating what sort of help she needs.

''My passion for skating and training remains strong,'' the 22-year-old skater said. ''However, after recent struggles on and off the ice, I realize I need to seek some professional help and will be taking some time off while preparing for my Grand Prix assignments. This time will help me become a stronger person, which I believe will be reflected in my skating performances as well.''

Her decision was first reported by USA Today.

Gold has dropped out of the Japan Open, an invitational team competition on Oct. 7. She has not abandoned her two major international assignments in the Grand Prix series: Cup of China and Internationaux de France. Both are in November.

With Olympic qualifying for the U.S. team set for early January, Gold's prospects for competing in the Pyeongchang Games could be in jeopardy. She would still be eligible to compete at the nationals even if she skips her Grand Prix assignments.

Gold helped the U.S. win a team bronze medal and barely missed making the podium in the women's event in Sochi. But that must seem like a long time ago for Gold, who has slumped in recent competitions and changed coaches.

Since winning her second U.S. crown and then finishing fourth at worlds in 2016, Gold has struggled in individual events. Her best finish was a fifth at Skate America and she slipped to a stunning sixth at this year's nationals.

She left coach Frank Carroll in February. And it was Carroll, who guided Evan Lysacek to Olympic gold in 2010, who announced the split. Gold now works in Canton, Michigan, with Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein.

After her split with Carroll, Gold said: ''I feel really positive about the changes I am making. I think I needed to change things, the environment, just a change of pace with a new group that is really positive and supportive, and I'm looking forward to starting fresh with a new season. The Olympics are really incredible. I am doing everything I can to make the team.''

For now, that chase calls for a break from skating.

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