As the Olympic Winter Games got underway in Beijing, Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH) received some incredible news. FSH, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a gender equality advocate and honored as the winner for the Americas of the Women and Sports Award. IOC president Thomas Bach said the IOC’s mission includes advancing gender equality on and off the fields of play.
“We are thrilled,” said FSH founder and CEO Sharon Cohen. “Certainly, we’re humbled and honored to receive this recognition on the global stage. It’s a nod to the inspiration of our girls, our team and the work that we’ve been doing for a quarter of a century now to be on the forefront of inclusion and gender equality.
“We are about something larger than skating; it’s really about developing young female leaders of color,” she added.
Cohen hopes that seeing the girls of FSH skate may inspire girls and boys of color to take up the sport and pursue it as far as their talents and passions take them. “Certainly, we hope it will inspire lots of participation so that among them a student can rise to the elite ranks,” said Cohen. “You have to see it to be it. We all want to see more representation in the sport. It begins by creating more access.”
After having its last two annual galas virtually, FSH is returning to in-person this spring for its silver anniversary benefit gala, “Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence and Sisterhood,” to be held April 25 at Gotham Hall. It is expected that newly crowned Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen will be in attendance. The honorees include legendary singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson.
Before that, FSH will have its annual ice show at Riverbank, and there will be an audience (must be fully vaccinated) on March 19 and 20. It’s called “City of Dreams, A Skating Love Letter to New York City.”
“Omicron was challenging, but we pushed through it,” said Cohen. “Our girls just competed in Lake Placid and got two bronze medals for two different teams (FSH has several Harlem Ice synchronized skating teams). They had a wonderful time. They got a tour of Lake Placid (site of the 1980 Winter Olympics), went snowshoeing and skated at the [speed skating] oval. It was an amazing weekend.”