When Karissa Williams arrived at the International Skating Union (ISU) International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Oberstdorf, Germany, she checked off another item on her list of life-long goals as a skater. As soon as she registered, she also sought out other Black skaters, but found only one: fellow American Linda Frances.
“The event has been unofficially dubbed ‘Adult Worlds,’” said Williams, meaning that adult skaters (over age 25) view it as their world championships. “I see why they call it that. You literally have so many adult skaters representing so many countries that come to this event.”
Adult skating competitions include people who skated as kids and teenagers, like Williams, who is a skating coach, and people who never skated before they were adults, like Frances, an attorney. Williams skated in gold ladies free skate I and masters ladies artistic I, finishing third in both. Frances competed in silver ladies free skate V, finishing sixth.
Frances became intrigued by skating while watching Debi Thomas and Katarina Witt on television during the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. In the summer of 1989, a friend directed her to take some learn-to-skate lessons at SkyRink (then at 33rd Street and 10th Avenue; now at Chelsea Piers). After her lessons, she kept returning to the rink for private lessons. When U.S. Figure Skating launched its first Adult Championships in 1995, Frances was there, and she’s kept on competing. She even took part in the very first international adult competition in 1999.
“The first thing I enjoy is the training,” she said. “My first coach, Wade Corbett, imbued in me a love of skating. I came to love the challenge of skating and I stayed with it.”
Frances also enjoys the organizational side of skating and is a silver-level judge with U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m happy to contribute so that others will have an opportunity,” she said. “I’m also happy to skate so that when I go places, other people of color will see a presentation…It makes me proud to have the opportunity for some other person to look and say, ‘I can do that too.’”
Williams was disappointed that her sightseeing was curtailed by rain her first few days in Oberstdorf, a mountain town in Bavaria. “It was amazing for me to fulfill this goal, but it left me wanting more,” she said. “Now that I’ve been to Oberstdorf once, I’m determined to go back again.”