Famous African-American King and Queen Figure Skaters, IN PICTURES AND PRINT…..

Certain African-American figure skaters are remembered for their impressive achievements. This short article highlights just a handful of those skaters.

Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner

Babilonia And Gardner
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Tai Babilonia, an African-American, and her partner, Randy Gardner, have skated together since the 1960s. They won the National Junior Pairs title in 1973. In 1976, they won the U.S. Senior Pairs event. They went on to win five consecutive national titles, and in 1979, they won the world pair skating title. They went on to star in ice shows and to skate professionally in several other skating shows. They became American ice skating legends. The names “Tai and Randy” have forever made the two figure skaters “like one.” 

 

Rory Flack Burghart

Rory Flack Burghart
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Rory Flack Burghart won the bronze medal in the Junior Ladies event at the U.S. National Figure Skating ​Championships in 1986. She also was the 1995 U.S. Open Champion and 2000 American Open Pro Champion. She had a very successful career as a professional figure skating performer.

 

Mabel Fairbanks

Mabel Fairbanks
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Mabel Fairbanks was an African-American figure skater and ice skating coach. Her strength and determination paved the way for African Americans and other figure skaters from minority backgrounds to be part of the sport.

 

Debi Thomas

Debi Thomas - 1985
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Debi Thomas was the first African-American to win the Championship event at the United States National Figure Skating Championships. She won the title in both 1986 and 1988 and also won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics. She is the only African-American who ever won a medal in the Olympics in figure skating. She also won the World Figure Skating Championships in 1986.

 

Richard Ewell

Richard Ewell
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Richard Ewell

Richard Ewell was the first African-American to win a national title in both pair skating and single skating. He won National Junior Men in 1970, and in 1972, won the National Junior Pair skating title with Michelle McCladdie, another African-American.

In 1965, he became the first African-American to be accepted into a figure skating club.

After winning the U.S. National Junior Pair title in 1972, Richard went on to star in Ice Capades, and now coaches figure skating in the Los Angeles area.

 

Surya Bonaly

Figure Skating - Surya Bonaly
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French figure skater Surya Bonaly became a U.S. citizen in 2004. She is known for being one of the only skaters who can land a backflip on one foot on the ice. She is remembered for being disqualified for making that move in the 1998 Olympics.

She participated in three different Olympics and became known for having a defiant attitude. She won the French National title nine times and the European title five times. She placed second at the world championships three times.

Surya now lives in the United States and has toured with Champions on Ice for many seasons.

 

Atoy Wilson

Atoy Wilson was the first African-American to win a national title in figure skating. He won the National Novice Men’s event in 1966. He went on to star in Holiday on Ice.

During the same week that Richard Ewell was accepted into the All Year Figure Skating Club, Atoy was the first African-American to be accepted for membership into the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.

 

Bobby Beauchamp

Bobby Beauchamp was the first African-American to win a world figure skating medal. At the Junior World Figure Skating Championship in 1979, he took the silver. That same year, he won the silver medal in Junior Men at the 1979 U.S. National Championships. He skated professionally with Ice Capades for many years.

 

Tiffani Tucker and Franklyn Singley

Tiffany Tucker and Franklyn Singley are considered the first African-American ice dance team in the United States. They were the first African-American ice dance team to win a medal at the United States National Figure Skating Championships. In 1993, they won the bronze medal in the Junior Dance event.

 
 
 
 
 
  • Debi Thomas
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    Debi Thomas: Figure Skating Champion and Physician

WHO IS DEBBIE THOMAS

Debra Janine Thomas (born March 25, 1967) is an American former figure skater and physician. She is the 1986 World champion, the 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, and a two-time U.S. national champion. Her rivalry with East Germany‘s Katarina Witt at the 1988 Calgary Olympics was known as the Battle of the Carmens.

 

Flo Ngala Captured Black Ice Skaters Beautifully

“[I] hope the idea of women of color in sports like skating becomes more of the norm.”
There’s something to be said about the history of Black athletes practicing sports that are considered traditionally white. For centuries, cultural norms have shaped and supported how people perceive Black players, particularly those on the ice.

An ice princess sport, figure skating has always been partial to mainstream ideologies. Think Dorothy Hamill or Sarah Hughes — white women who dominated the ice during their time. Seldom were images of Black women like Rory Flack Burghart and Surya Bonaly symbolic of what people thought when they heard the words figure skater.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago Black skaters weren’t allowed on the ice rink. A pioneer in figure skating, Mabel Fairbanks was rejected for the color of her skin, facing a slew of racism in the late 1920s throughout her career, unable to skate competitively, and denied entry to the Olympics.

“None of the white skaters wanted to be outshone by someone Black,” she states in a 1998 L.A. Times interview. “I remember [being told], ‘we don’t have [Blacks] in ice shows.’ But I didn’t let that get in my way, because I loved to skate.” Hailed as breaking the color barrier in figure skating, Fairbanks paved the way for skaters of color who lacked the money, access, and resources — creating space for the Rorys and Suryas of the world.

Double the rate of their white counterparts, one in four Black households live in poverty, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is why the existence of initiatives like Figure Skating in Harlem and its sister organization Figure Skating in Detroit matter. Without the financial backing and access to expensive skating lessons and gear, the scarcity of Black athletes in figure skating and winter sports will continue.

Exploring the issue of inclusivity at her first solo exhibition, curated by Cierra Britton, Harlem Ice: The Selects Folder, Nigerian Cameroonian New York–based photographer and former figure skater Flo Ngala displayed never-before-seen images highlighting Black girls on the ice. Celebratory of Figure Skating in Harlem, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build champions in life through the artistic discipline of figure skating, these images follow a recent cover story Flo photographed for the New York Times titled “When I Skate It Just Feels Free.”

“This work and program are so personal and the opportunity to share [it] on the Times platform was a dream, but I also knew there were tons of photos that hit a little deeper and evoked emotion that I felt people needed to see,” Flo tells Teen Vogue. “As a former figure skater, a big part of the sport for me was the emotion that went into it all; it’s something a skater and the audience feel. So when capturing the girls of the program it was not a surprise that those feelings flooded back to me.”

Challenging the norm, Flo’s exhibition was a beautiful reminder that community does exist among young girls of color in sports. Visibility now, more than ever before, is necessary and Flo echoes these same sentiments: “I’m not the first or last person to say this, but it is so important to show women of color and people of color in a light that those who do not look like us do not typically see us. It speaks to strength in numbers and sisterhood, and what it means to find something you love and decide to commit to even though it was not a space created for you.”

Fostering the dialogue around representation and lack of acceptance concerning the Black ice princess as a narrative, Flo explains that “we need to continue [these] conversations in ways that we may relate to it and bring to the forefront new angles and perspectives.” Especially with image politics at play for Black women in sports.

Figure skating has always held image, femininity in particular, on a pedestal, with white woman as the unspoken standard. Judged not only on technical elements like their jumps and spins, skaters are also subject to examination of how their feminine charm reads on the ice. That of which inevitably evokes bias, as what’s breathtaking to one may be middling to another.

And although the scoring system has changed to be more impartial, “there are [still] new forms of bias that are manifesting themselves in the system,” former figure skater Chloe Katz tell NBC News.

“Society remains uneasy with female strength of any stripe and still prefers and champions delicate damsels — an outdated sentiment that limits all women. But because the damsel’s face is still viewed as unequivocally white and female, it is a particular problem for Black women,” especially in sports, Tamara Winfrey Harris writes in The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America. “As long as vulnerability and softness are the basis for acceptable femininity, women who are perpetually framed because of their race as supernaturally indestructible will not be viewed with regard.”

Prevalent on and off the ice, the expectation for Black skaters to prove their femininity even exists as an assertion that they too are just as delicate and docile as their white counterparts, an unfortunate truth for Black ice queens like Surya, who was often ridiculed for being “too athletic.” It’s the double bind that comes with being Black and a woman in sports.

“Coming from a competitive gymnastics background, [Surya] had an unorthodox jumping and technical style, which, at the time, was not in line with the traditional style of skating that was expected and accepted by the broader skating community,” Sonja Kaminski, former U.S. Figure Skating Gold and Regional judge tells the Undefeated. “That time in skating was the ‘age of elegance’ and Surya…displayed athleticism, not finesse…which opened the door for the judges to give her lower scores.”

Evocative of the many ways Black women’s bodies are condemned in a society where they are cast as other, the pressure for Black figure skaters to fit into a singular image on the ice is burdensome. Often met with language like “masculine,” and “not graceful enough,” figure skating has proven to be a homogenous sport that lacks in diversity.

And while there is no clear data on the ethnic makeup of figure skaters, what is clear is of the more than 2,500 medals that have been issued for winter sports since the first Winter Olympics in 1924 — only 12 of those medals are occupied by Black athletes. Of the 271 medals awarded for figure skating, only two are held by Black skaters: Debi Thomas, who won bronze in 1988, and Robin Szolkowy, who won bronze in 2010.

As a self-proclaimed “dark skin girl on white ice,” Flo recalls never fitting into the one-dimensional mold skating upholds and feeling “less girly” because of it. She even highlig