Karissa Williams performing her artistic program Credit: Danielle Earl Photography

Karissa Williams, U.S. Figure Skating and Professional Skaters Association senior rated and ranked figure skating professional coach, keeps a busy schedule. On the ice teaching several hours a day, she still makes time for her own training. At age 37, she’s an active adult competitor and in late September won two medals at the International Skating Union Adult Figure Skating Competition in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at which skaters from 12 countries competed. 

Adult skating emerged as serious competitions in the late-1990s. Some skaters, like Williams, skated since their youth, and others get into the sport as adults. It’s a supportive environment, and the annual U.S. Adult Championships are more diverse than the U.S. Figure Skating Championships tend to be. That said, Williams noted that unless she missed someone, she was the only Black person competing at this international event. 

“For my artistic program I skated to a piece of music from the Jordan Peele thriller movie ‘Us,’” said Williams, who won a silver medal in the masters women artistic class I (masters refers to people who have skated before adulthood, and I is an age classification). “I was wearing a red dress because I was required to wear something skating appropriate. I could not wear an actual red jumpsuit that the characters wore in the movie or hold a prop.”

She describes the program, which she loves performing, as a scary thriller. Williams also took the bronze in the gold women free skating class I. For that routine, her program was set to “Zarabanda.”

“It’s really cool and very nature-like. The music is calming and powerful at the same time,” said Williams, who is hoping to compete again internationally in May 2023 in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Williams, who has lived in Michigan since attending the University of Michigan, grew up skating, but her single mom could not afford the level of coaching and ice time necessary for her to be a serious competitor. She began coaching at age 15 and was able to realize her competitive dreams with her university’s skating team. When Williams was old enough to enter adult competitions, she shined. In 2018, she became the first Black female skater to win a U.S. adult title. 

“I continue competing because I feel I still have more to achieve,” said Williams. “I still enjoy performing, being out on the ice and moving to a piece of music that moves me. … I’m proud that I can be a trailblazer for people of color just getting started in this sport.”

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