"After recent struggles on and off the ice, I realize I need to seek some professional help," Gold said in a statement

By Adam Carlson
September 01, 2017 11:26 AM

U.S. figure skating champion and Olympic medalist Gracie Gold will be “taking some time off” from her sport to “seek some professional help,” she confirmed to PEOPLE on Friday.

“My passion for skating and training remains strong. 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 [of Figure Skating] assignments,” Gold said in a statement. (USA Today was first to report the news.)

“This time will help me become a stronger person,” Gold’s statement continued, “which I believe will be reflected in my skating performances as well.”

According to USA Today, Gold — who earned a bronze medal on the U.S. figure skating team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — has made an essentially unprecedented decision to take voluntary time away “at such a crucial moment.”

There are three spots open on the U.S. figure skating team for the women’s event at the 2018 Winter Games. Those competitors will be chosen only a few weeks before the Games get underway, after the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships end in January: A committee will select the athletes based on their performances from the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships through the U.S. championships.

It was not immediately clear how long Gold’s planned absence is or what her “recent struggles” may be. A representative for Gold declined comment beyond the statement.

The 22-year-old will no longer compete in the Japan Open in October as scheduled, while the Grand Prix events she referenced in her statement are both slated for November. Her decision comes after she’s already begun promoting the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“Gracie’s statement speaks for itself,” Barb Reichert, spokeswoman for U.S. Figure Skating (the sport’s governing body in America), tells PEOPLE.

“U.S. Figure Skating is in full support of Gracie,” Reichert says, “and we would ask all to respect her privacy at this time.”

Despite two U.S. figure skating championships and her medal-winning Olympic performance, Gold’s career has deteriorated sharply in recent months, USA Today reports, noting that she finished a disappointing sixth at the 2017 national championships in January, only a year after winning her second U.S. title.

“Her decline culminated this spring and summer in a disheartening inability to land even the simplest jumps in skating shows and a U.S. Figure Skating preview camp,” reporter Christine Brennan wrote.

“When she was skating well, she was magical,” former coach Frank Carroll told the paper earlier this week.

He said of Gold, “You said to yourself, ‘Oh my God, she’s gorgeous. She looks like a movie star. She has such joie de vivre.’ Then you ask yourself what happened to that. I hope she can find happiness.”

Peter Kramer/NBC/Getty

Previously asked about returning for the Winter Games in 2018, Gold struck an optimistic tone, saying in 2014, “I definitely have two Olympics in me; I don’t know about three Olympics.”

Gold has not yet commented publicly on her decision beyond her statement. A few weeks ago, on Instagram, she posted a photo of herself on the ice along with the brief caption “your happy ending is up to you.”

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