Rising Starr: Andrews shooting for a place among figure skating’s best
Keep an eye on Starr Andrews at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose (Jan. 3-7). Not only does Andrews, 16, perform her short program to Beyoncé and her free skate to Whitney Houston, but she’s also got a name primed for being the U.S.’ next bright spot on the horizon.
“It just came to my mom, when I was in her arms: Let’s name her Starr!” Andrews said in an interview with NBCOlympics.com.
Andrews’ mother, Toshawa, was an adult figure skater before Starr was born. She recalls watching her mom on the ice from the sidelines, wishing she could participate. The rink didn’t stock skates small enough for her feet, so Andrews had to wait before she could try out the ice for herself.
It was on the ice that Toshawa learned she had microvascular coronary dysfunction. She felt burning in her chest and assumed it was anxiety, but later, a doctor urged her to see a specialist. She had 11 heart attacks between 2007 and 2010, but now has a defibrillator and an optimized medicinal regimen.
In 2010, when Andrews was 9, a video of her performing to Willow Smith’s catchy single “Whip My Hair” went viral. The video was posted on YouTube, and boasts more than 50 million views to date.
This year, Andrews chose her music with input from her coach, 1998 world junior champion Derrick Delmore. They settled on Beyoncé’s cover of “Fever” for the short program and Whitney Houston’s iconic “One Moment in Time” for the free skate. But there's a twist: Andrews is singing the song herself.
Of course, Houston’s “One Moment in Time” was the official Olympic theme song the last time the Games were hosted in South Korea – the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
“I love these two songs particularly because they’re so moving. I love my short program so much,” Andrews said. As this is the first Olympic season where skaters can use lyrics in their music, Andrews said it makes her programs more relatable.
“It’s different with lyrics because you know what they’re saying and you know what the song’s about,” she added. “You can relate to it more.”
While dresses are more common for ladies figure skaters, for the short program, Andrews rocks a bedazzled red bodysuit.
“We were going back and forth whether it should be red or black, but I did black last year,” said Andrews, who called her wardrobe choice this year as “going bold.”
Andrews began her season by winning the Los Angeles Open Championships in July. She also competed on the Junior Grand Prix circuit in Salzburg, Austria, and finished fifth.
In both of the free skates, Andrews attempted triple Axels, an elusive jump in ladies’ figure skating. She fell on it in Los Angeles, but stayed on her feet while in Salzburg, despite receiving downgraded marks from the judges.
Only three U.S. women have landed the triple Axel: Tonya Harding (1991), Kimmie Meissner (2005), and this season, Mirai Nagasu.
It’s a jump Andrews is actively training almost daily.
“I really have nothing to lose with the jump, so why not do it?” Andrews asked. “I wanted to do it, because the more I do it, the better it gets.”
At her December tune-up competition prior to nationals, Andrews finished sixth overall. However, she didn’t include the triple Axel in either of her programs, likely due to a fractured ankle sustained before the Pacifc Coast Sectional Championships (which she also won).
Andrews is homeschooled – completing lessons and homework between skating sessions – and the self-described animal lover eventually wants to be a veterinarian. She has a dog, a cat, and a lizard right now, but in the past has had “every pet.”
“I’ve had a bunny, a hamster, and three rats, actually,” she said. True to form, her favorite Snapchat filters are the animal ones.
Outside of skating, she likes to spend time with her sisters, who are 18 and 24. One of her hobbies is singing. In fact, when she announced her free skate music this year, she did so by singing on her Instagram.
If she gets any free time to watch television, “Bob’s Burgers” is her go-to show. Louise is her favorite character, but Tina is a close second.
Like Louise, Andrews is the third child in her family (but Andrews does have a younger brother, 10).
Behind the boards, Andrews likes to give off a “carefree and happy” vibe. If she’s distracted by the other skaters on the ice, she loses focus on herself.
“I have to act like I’m the only one on the ice at that moment and do what I know how to do,” she said, not allowing other big-name skaters to eclipse her outlook.
Something special to help her focus is the small piece of skating history Andrews wears at each competition: a sisterhood of the traveling earring, of sorts.
World champion pairs skater Tai Babilonia gave Kristi Yamaguchi a small gold hoop earring with a heart dangling from it, which Yamaguchi wore for her 1992 Olympic competition and beyond. She even wore it on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Yamaguchi offered the earring to two-time pairs Olympic gold medalist Ekaterina Gordeyeva after the death of her husband and skating partner, Sergei Grinkov. Gordeyeva gave it back to Babilonia, who eventually gifted it to Andrews after seeing her skate to “Whip My Hair.”
Somewhere along the line, Andrews thinks, one earring from the pair got lost. She doesn’t consider it a lucky charm, because she isn’t superstitious. Andrews does believe that one day she will pass the earring on.
“As I get older I will probably give it to another figure skater that I believe has the potential to make it far,” Andrews said.
But for now, Andrews is concentrating on herself, the 2018 and 2022 Olympics, and creating her own moment in time on the ice.