Starr Andrews inspires more figure skaters to be “Black Like Me” – OlympicTalk



A video of Starr Andrews skating on “Whip My Hair” when she was 9 has an incredible 56 million views on YouTube.

But it was the 19-year-old’s performance on “Black Like Me,” which she posted online last summer, that drew an admiring tweet from the former first lady. Michelle obama and allowed Andrews to express his sports activism.

The program “honors the struggles African Americans have and still endure,” Andrews said, adding that it relates to the lyrics of the song by Mickey Guyton.

“She says it’s a tough life for people of color,” Andrews said, “because we are racially profiled.”

As the best African-American figure skater of 2021 – and the most accomplished of this century – Andrews has a bottom line up Mabel Fairbanks, who was denied a chance to compete in the 1930s because of his race.

Fairbanks competed in ice shows and pursued a career as a coach of the American Figure Skating Hall of Fame. She died in 2001 at the age of 85, when Andrews was only 3 months old. But one of the students from Fairbanks, Olympian and world champion in pairs Tai Babilonia, became Andrews’ Los Angeles area mentor as a preteen.

“She talked to me about Mabel all the time,” Andrews said, “and some pointers from Mabel told her she would pass it on to me.

“She told me to always hold my head up high and Tai taught me to bow – just the very small details, but the smallest details make the biggest difference.”

Now, Fairbanks ‘legacy is directly contributing to Andrews’ education – and that could make all the difference in her quest to become an Olympic athlete.

Last month Andrews received the first grant from the Mabel Fairbanks Skatingly Yours Fund, which was established to support the training and development of promising figure skaters who are Black, Indigenous and Color (BIPOC).

The highest price is $ 25,000, to which this year was matched by the American corporate figure skating partner, the guaranteed rate for a total of $ 50,000.

“It opens up a lot more doors for me to get more ice time, more lessons, and take more ballet and Pilates and off-ice lessons,” said Andrews, who worked on the addition. a triple Axel and a quadruple jump to it. directory. “The more technically difficult my program, the more I will climb through the ranks. “

Atoy Wilson, the executor of the Fairbanks estate, believes Andrews was the “perfect fit” for the purse, which is named after the way Fairbanks signed autographs – “Skatingly Yours.”

“Starr is the primary African-American person of color in this rank,” said Wilson, who was coached by Fairbanks and became the first black skater to compete in the U.S. figure skating championships in 1965, and the first black national champion. a year later when he won the novice division.

“We watched her grow up and feed herself to be a really, really good skater,” Wilson said. “And knowing that she’s heading into the world level of skating, it takes a lot of money and it takes a lot of time and initiative with that – and she got it.”

Andrews was sixth at the nationals in 2018 and 2020, a black woman’s best result at the senior level since Andrea Gardiner fifth in 2000.

Wilson said Andrews isn’t just confident on the ice, “She’s confident with who she is. This performance she did, the big homage to Black Lives Matter, I think there’s a consciousness that is there, and for me that registers an identity that Mabel had about herself.

Wilson said if Fairbanks participated in Andrews’ training she would be “ecstatic” and urge him to donate 120 percent.

“She would really be in there, whispering in his ear,” he said. “Derrick delmore is the coach, but Mabel would be on the side saying, ‘Look kid, you got the talent. Dark. Be aggressive. Skate like it’s your last performance. Put it all in there. This is how Mabel taught us. This is how she really integrated her dynamism into us.

Wilson and Babilonia are developing a biopic on Fairbanks, which would give classes for free if students couldn’t afford it, and she saw that they “had the determination, focus and motivation,” Wilson said. “She wouldn’t just give it to you; you had to show him that you had the initiative to do it.

In 1986, three African-American skaters who had previously been trained by Fairbanks – Debi Thomas, Rory flack and Bobby Beauchamp – participated in national championships and won medals. Thomas was the senior female champion and Flack and Beauchamp stepped onto the podium at the junior level.

By the time Andrews arrived, however, she saw no African American skater to emulate. She recognizes that her success can help attract more people of color to the ice.

“Usually when I’m at nationals a few little black girls come to me, and I’m so touched when they say I’m their inspiration,” she said. “It makes me so happy because I didn’t really see an African American skater when I was watching him on TV when I was 10, 11 or 12 years old.

“I have the impression that there are a lot of people from BIPOC with a lot of talent, but the sport is so expensive, it’s really difficult to continue. And being subjective, it’s a bit difficult to get into that.

Andrews started skating at the age of 4. His mother Toshawa was an adult skater who wanted to pass on her passion for the sport, and she did.

“I really feel free when I skate and I fell in love with the feel of the wind on my face and everything about it,” Andrews said.

Due to last year’s pandemic, Andrews was unable to train from March through May. Those three months were her longest time off the ice since missing four weeks with an injury.

Andrews struggled to regain his stamina and recover his jumps. After competing in the 2019-20 season often, she only had two in-person events on her schedule in 2020-21. At Skate America, where she placed eighth, Andrews said, “I feel like I forgot what it was like to compete, so I was more nervous than usual. It was also a new feeling for me.

Competing at the US figure skating championships in January, Andrews failed in the short program, placing 17th, which was last in the women’s competition. She finished 10th in the free skate to move up to 12th overall.

“I think I was very lucky to come out and compete and I just have to keep training so that I don’t have a program like this again,” Andrews said.

She got back on her feet in February with some career highlights. On February 7th, a clip of Andrews appeared in the Guaranteed Rate Super Bowl commercial and a day later Michelle Obama linked to the “Black Like Me” video, writing “Wow! Thanks @SkatingStarr – c This is such a powerful performance. To all black children who seek excellence over those who doubt you: keep going. Keep telling the story of your experience. We see you. “

Andrews said she had no idea how the former first lady learned about the program, which she put together in three days for the Peggy Fleming Trophy last July. Andrews’ mom and coaches suggested she record it because it was so beautiful. They decided to put it online in the wake of the protests for justice and racial equality, various versions of which have garnered more than 150,000 views.

Toshawa sent his daughter a screenshot of Obama’s tweet as she prepared to step into her skates for training. Andrews then sat in his frozen chair for 5 minutes. “I thought it was wrong at first,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it, I mean Michelle Obama saw my program! It is so amazing.

While Wilson said he was happy Andrews was recognized, he said his experience shows that the expectations are higher for people of color. “The proof of the pudding is out there on that ice cream,” he said.

If Andrews makes it to the Olympic or world team, Wilson said it would influence “young skaters immensely”.

“When you see someone like you there,” he said, “someone who’s done brilliantly, it’s always an initiative, it’s always an inspiration, it’s always what moment when you say, “I can do this. If she can do it, I can do it.

Unfortunately, in the 1930s, Fairbanks was not allowed to do this because she was black.

Andrews said that when Babilonia told him about the history of Fairbanks with racism, “I didn’t understand why [her color] was such a huge deal that she couldn’t compete. Because sport is not just for one person. It’s for everyone.

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