Starr Andrews headlined the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California on Friday, becoming the first Black woman to win a medal in over three decades.
Andrews, who finished fourth overall, was delighted to stand on the podium alongside Isabeau Levito, who won the gold medal, Bradie Tennell, who took second, and Amber Glenn, who won the bronze. According to The Washington Post, she received a total score of 188.24 for the two days of the competition, including a free skate score of 119.27.
“To be able to be the next African American woman to stand on a podium is amazing,” Andrews told The Post.
Before Andrews’ win, the last Black woman in America to win a national figure skating competition medal was Debi Thomas in 1988, 35 years ago. Having grown up in Los Angeles competing in a sport where women of color rarely make it to the medal stand, Andrews understood the significance of the moment.
The 21-year-old took home a silver medal from Skate Canada last October and made history as the first Black American to medal at a Grand Prix event. She finished third in the short program at the U.S. Nationals on Thursday and felt optimistic that she would win a medal despite challenges.
“It’s never going to be an easy road [in skating],” Andrews said, according to The Post. “There’s ups and downs, and…you have to take and make the best out of it. That’s how you become a great athlete, and [it] helps you in regular life as well.”
Andrews draws a lot of inspiration from her mother, Toshawa, a skater herself who has been her coach and mentor. Her mother has a heart condition called microvascular disease, which has caused 12 heart attacks and also a stroke.
Along with injuries, Andrew had a heart condition that needed surgery in November. She hopes for a quick recovery and minimal disruption to her ice skating because she will soon need another procedure, even though her heart condition is not as serious as her mother’s.
She cherishes the letters she receives from the families of young Black skaters telling her how much she inspires them.
“I can’t believe I’m the person they saw, I’m the person that wanted to make them start skating,” Andrews said, The Post reported. “And I think that that’s so amazing. And I’m so glad that I can be that person.”