Starr Andrews skates to history as first Black skater to win ISU Grand Prix medal

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Starr Andrews skates to history as first Black skater to win ISU Grand Prix medal
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On Oct. 29, 21-year-old Starr Andrews made history at Skate Canada in Mississauga, Ontario, as the first Black US figure skater to win an ISU Grand Prix medal since the series began in 1995. “I can’t even put into [words] how I feel right now!!” Andrews wrote on Instagram.

Once best known for her viral 2010 performance to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” which gained tens of millions of views on YouTube, Starr has continued to live up to her name. “I couldn’t be more proud of how I skated in Canada. Thank you to all the support I’ve gotten even on the skates that weren’t my best. This is a dream come true,” she recently said.

According to her website, Starr Andrews was introduced to skating at the age of three years old. Fascinated by the shiny blades, she found the job of watching her mom skate from the bleachers tortuous.  A precocious child and determined to skate, she took off at lighting speed once granted the privilege.

Her summer ’21 performance of “Black Like Me” represents Starr and so many before her.

Starr is not blind to the lack of inclusion which has persisted through figure staking, saying, “You know, you see a couple people here and there, but I feel like it needs to be a normal thing that you see. And it’s not.”

Doing her part to inspire the next generation, over the weekend Andrews performed her second program of the tournament — a free skate to Belgian singer Lara Fabian’s rendition of “Je Suis Malade”. On Saturday, she moved up from fifth place to second overall with a score of 191.26, 10 points higher than her previous personal best at a Grand Prix in France in 2019.

During the program, Andrews expertly executed six triple jumps, including a difficult double axel euler triple salchow. Japan’s Rinka Watanabe took first with a total of 197.59 points, while Young You of South Korea earned the bronze medal with 190.15 points, according to Team USA.

Her success — though not immediately seen — is indeed influential to fans of all ages, probably to none more than the likes of Angela Blocker-Loyd and Candice Tamakloe, skating directors of Dream Detroit Skating Academy (DDSA).

Photo courtesy of Dream Detroit Skating Academy

They run Detroit’s only Black-owned female skating club and the state of Michigan’s only Black-owned figure skating club, offering a high-quality and rigorous figure skating program for beginners and advanced figure skaters.

Starr’s coach Derrick Delmore knows the importance of her role, telling the Olympics, “Because there are so few Black skaters in the world, it’s really important for Starr to be a role model and a voice for skaters of colour. And I think it was important for her to show that it’s okay to acknowledge and express herself, not just as another figure skater, but as a Black female in figure skating.”

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