If we learned anything from the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan debacle—a ’90s saga recently chronicled on the big screen by Margot Robbie in I, Tonya—it’s that the world enjoys elite ladies figure skating with a side of serious drama. And this year’s run to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea certainly isn’t lacking in that department. America’s ice princess and former Olympian, Gracie Gold, withdrew from the U.S. Championships in an effort to seek treatment for depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Undefeated star and two-time World Champion, Yevgenia Medvedeva, told International Olympic Committee members that she “cannot accept” competing as a neutral athlete after Russia was barred from attending this year’s Winter Games following a state-backed doping scandal. Medvedeva also pulled out of the Russian Championships due to a foot injury, but has reportedly not yet made a final decision regarding an appearance in PyeongChang. Who needs a bitter rivalry (or a baton) when our collective attention is already riveted by all that? And this is even before a single American woman has been named to the 2018 Olympic team.
Last night, the uphill battle to PyeongChang began for the senior ladies. Leading up to the event, The New York Times published a piece titled “Where Are the American Women in Olympic Figure Skating?,” which cited the decline of the U.S. female figure skaters when compared to the technically dominant Russians. But, we think we may have found the answer to the newspaper’s question in 16-year-old Starr Andrews. She’s not the favorite going into the U.S. Championships (three-time National champion Ashley Wagner is being touted by the media as a shoe-in for one of the three slots on the Olympic team) and she’s likely not on the average spectator’s radar—at least not yet. However, you may have seen her interpret “Whip My Hair” at age nine, a video that went viral with over 52 million views on YouTube. “I never expected it to go viral,” she said. “It was one of my favorite songs at the time. Usually, you don’t see stuff like that—typically, it’s classical music, but this was different from everything else and I guess I interpreted it very well.” The California native has grown up over the past seven years, as have her skating skills. She mastered all of her triple jumps by age 14 and secured a silver medal in last year’s junior event at the U.S. Championships. She also caught the eye of legendary skater Tai Babilonia, who gifted her with an earring that was worn by Kristi Yamaguchi when she took home gold during the 1992 Olympic Games. “She said that I have the It factor,” said Andrews of why this talisman was passed down to her before her first appearance at the National Championships in the juvenile division at age 12 where she earned a pewter medal.