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Famous African American Figure Skaters

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There are certain African American figure skaters that should be remembered. This short article highlights just a handful of those skaters.

1. Mabel Fairbanks

Mabel Fairbanks
Photo Courtesy of Harlick Skating Boots
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.

2. Debi Thomas

Debi Thomas
Photo Courtesy of Harlick Skating Boots
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.

3. Richard Ewell

Richard Ewell
Photo Copyright © 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.

4. Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner

Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia
Photo by J. Emilio Flores/Stringer - Getty Images
Tai Babilonia, an African American, and her partner, Randy Gardner, skated together for over thirty years. 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. In 1979, they won Worlds.

5. Surya Bonaly

Surya Bonaly
Photo by Bob Martin - Getty Images

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 back flip on one foot on the ice. She is remembered for being disqualified for doing 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.

6. 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 Americn to be accepted for membership into the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Rory Flack Burghart

Rory Flack Burghart won the bronze medal in the Junior Ladies event at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championshiops 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.

Join the Discussion - African American Figure Skaters

Do you know of certain African American figure skaters that should be highlighted or remembered?
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