First black figure skating pair leaps over color barriers & national borders

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Although largely unremarked in the U.S. news coverage, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver hosted the first all-black figure skating pair to compete at the Olympic level. The 2-year-old pair of James-Bonheur placed 7th in the 2010 European Championships and 14th in their first Olympics together with a dynamic and riveting program. Hopefully they will continue to inspire both on and off the ice.

From Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press via CTV:

VANCOUVER – Vanessa James says she had two big reasons to feel proud on the ice Monday: she was part of the first black figure skating pair in Olympic history, and she did it in the country of her birth.

Toronto-born James and partner Yannick Bonheur, skating for France, delighted the crowd at the Pacific Coliseum with an elegant and technically rich routine in their free skate. They are among the few black skaters who have climbed the ranks of international figure skating and the first to reach these heights as part of a pair.

“We’ve actually had a few people who had come from the U.S. to watch the Olympics and they had never seen us before, and they have children who are black figure skaters and now they want to be the best,’’ James said after their routine Monday.

“They see that it’s possible so I hope we do see more black skaters in figure skating, and then we’ll see more skaters.’‘

Continue to the full article at the CTV 2010 Olympics website.


From Christopher Clarey, The New York Times:

TALLINN, Estonia – […] In short order, James was traveling to Paris for a three-day tryout with Bonheur in December 2007. They have been a pair ever since, finishing seventh in last week’s European championships, and taking pride in their progress and the symbolism inherent in being the first all-black team at the elite level in pairs.

“In the beginning, that didn’t mean much to me,” James said. “I knew it was something new, something different, but if you’re not going to skate well and be top level, it doesn’t really bring anything to the sport, you know? So we didn’t have our mind set on that at the beginning, but as we continue, as we have supporters and as we continue to progress and get to the top, I’d like to see that we encourage other black skaters to skate together or just begin skating, period, because it’s a beautiful sport.”

James and Bonheur, after training in the Paris area in 2008 and part of 2009, are now temporarily based in Indianapolis, working with the coach Sergei Zaitsev.


James said the Olympics have been on her wish list since she began skating in Manassas, Va., and admiring the Olympian Michelle Kwan. At the beginning, however, James could not have guessed that she would end up at the Olympics as a Frenchwoman.

“It’s a dream come true even though I never dreamt it,” she said with a laugh.

Continue to the full article at The New York Times website.