In 1993, skater Franklyn Singley made figure skating history. Not only were he and partner Tiffani Tucker the first Black skaters to medal in ice dancing at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but they were the first ice dance team in which both partners were Black. As the 30th anniversary of their accomplishment approached, Singley felt inspired to make another historical mark.
There is a robust adult skating competition scene in the United States (skaters 25 and over) and U.S. Figure Skating has held U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships for more than two decades. Singley, a skating coach, has competed several times. After last year’s Adult Championships, Singley felt an idea brewing.
“I started thinking about 1993 with Tiffani and how wonderful that was,” Singley said. “To be able to skate with her then was an amazing experience. To stand on the podium (bronze medal in junior dance) and represent was such an incredible experience. I kept thinking…I should ask Tiffani if she wants to come back and celebrate our 30-year anniversary.”
He asked Tucker, a television news anchor in Cleveland, where Singley also lives. She ultimately declined because of her hectic schedule, which includes two children. Singley then turned to long-time student June Smith, a lifelong athlete and avid adult skater.
Singley, 52, and Smith, 67, recently traveled to Salt Lake City and competed at the 2023 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in the Centennial Dance division. “It meant everything,” said Singley. “In 1993, I didn’t realize the magnitude of what we accomplished by being visible and standing there proudly. Over the years, I’ve realized as people have come up to me and said, ‘I’d never seen a Black team before.’ Between then and now, I’ve realized how important it is to be visible. … That’s what I was going for with June.”
There were multiple moments where Singley realized that in addition to fellow competitors, judges, and officials, members of the audience were witnessing him and Smith performing. People came up to him and said they felt a sense of inclusion because of their presence.
“I want my legacy to be that the rink is my home, and when you are at my home, everyone is welcome,” said Singley, who in 2021 bought a learn-to-skate program where anyone who wants to skate has the opportunity to do so. “We started the program with 10 people, and last count were at about 215.”
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