'It's kind of magical': Utah teen figure skater breaks barriers on ice

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Posted at 8:37 AM, Oct 12, 2022

HEBER CITY, Utah — Several high-stakes figure skating competitions will take place across the United States in November.

Kate Pressgrove, 14, of Heber City, is vying for one of the top spots at the Pacific Coast Sectionals in San Francisco, California.

Pressgrove said she was 2 when her aunt first took her skating and has been hooked ever since.

“It’s kind of magical,” Pressgrove explained.

Pressgrove currently skates six days a week and four hours a day at the Park City Ice Arena. That doesn’t take into account the time she spends training off-ice and attending virtual school full-time at Utah Connections Academy.

“She sets the example for everyone at this rink. She works hard,” said Tiffany McNeil, who has been coaching Pressgrove since the beginning. “She’s also the only African American that we have at this rink."

Since the sport of figure skating was first established in the U.S. in 1921, Black figure skaters have been underrepresented.

“As U.S. figure skating, I’m not sure that in the past we’ve done the best job at outreaching to communities,” said Kadari Taylor-Watson, who became U.S. Figure Skating’s first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in July of 2021.

Taylor-Watson told KSTU that the organization renewed its focus on diversity in 2020 after George Floyd’s death and subsequently created a DEI Task Force.

“People had a racial reckoning, or an inequality reckoning if you will,” she said. “It was the people in the organizations that pushed and encouraged our leadership to say, ‘What can U.S. Figure Skating do to help improve racial relations?’”

Since then, the organization has worked on making the sport more welcoming, which includes the creation of the “Mabel Fairbanks Skatingly Yours Fund” in 2021.

The fund supports the training and development of promising figure skaters who are Black, Indigenous, and people of Color (BIPOC).

The organization has also increased its focus on historically marginalized communities.

In 2021, U.S. Figure skating hosted its first DEI outreach program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville and U.S Figure Skating Synchronized Skating Championships in Colorado Springs.

“There’s that saying: ‘If you see it, you can be it,’” said Taylor- Watson. “We do have people of color in our sport, but we do have to do a better job in showing them and diversify who people see as a figure skater.”

“I think it’s awesome to have everyone participating, despite what they look like,” Pressgrove explained. “I really want to be the best I can be.”

Pressgrove’s short-term goal is to make it to the National Development Team Camp in January 2023. Long term, she wants to represent Team USA in Italy at the 2026 Winter Olympics.

April Baker at KSTU first reported this story.