As a child growing up in the 1970s, spending time at the roller skating rink was hip and what was happening. Practicing your turns, skating backwards and watching who would get asked to go on the floor for “couple’s skate” was a Saturday treat. I thought Tootie on The Facts of Life was so cool because she got to roller skate inside The Eastland School. It was definitely a sign of the times, but nothing my mother wanted me to emulate in our own house.
At the end of the decade I went to my first Ice Capades show and was captivated by the figure skaters. Having four wheels on the bottom of a boot seemed like the perfect equation for balance. Gliding on ice with just a blade seemed like magic to me; a balancing act I wanted to try. I asked if I could take ice skating lessons at a local rink in the county and my parents obliged. I learned the basics, earned a few badges along the way but I knew I wasn’t in it for the long haul. There would be no Ice Castles movie starring little ol’ me. My fascination with the sport didn’t waiver though. Pairs skaters Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner made a huge impression on me. They were the heavily decorated U.S. and World Champion gold medalists at the time; so poised, talented and such a striking “couple.” I was glued to the TV during the 1980 Winter Olympics, and was crushed when Tai and Randy couldn’t compete because Randy got injured.
From watching Katarina Witt and Kristi Yamaguchi to Oksana Baiul and the Nancy Kerrigan-Tanya Harding scandal I was a faithful fan every four years when the Winter Olympics entertained the world. But for me, the biggest stand out of all was a young woman who competed in the 1988 Games while she was a full-time student at Stanford University – Miss Debi Thomas. She was three years older than me, and I was in awe of her.On this date, she earned the bronze medal and a place in the history books as the first black woman to win a Winter Olympic medal. She went on to replace that medal around her neck with a stethoscope, and became an orthopedic surgeon. Not too shabby; not so rinky-dink. Go ahead Dr. Debi!