Jamestown’s Claire Ferguson, first female president of U.S. Figure Skating, passes away at age 88

U.S. Figure Skating mourns the loss of Claire Waters Ferguson, the first female president of U.S. Figure Skating, who passed away after complications from a fall on January 12, 2024. She was 88 years old.

Claire Waters Ferguson blazed a trail for women in the sport’s leadership ranks. In 1992, she became the first female president of U.S. Figure Skating, and in 1994, became the first American woman elected to the International Skating Union Council and International Federation for Figure Skaters.

In her roles, Ferguson was a progressive leader through tumultuous times for the sport. She led the organization through the much-publicized 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, which put a white-hot spotlight on the sport and coincidentally paved the way for lucrative television contracts. Following the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, under Ferguson’s reign, U.S. Figure Skating signed a multi-year contract with ABC that allowed the organization to sell its TV rights rather than bear the responsibility of producing its own events.

During her term, the International Olympic Committee loosened its eligibility rules regarding professionals and amateurs, prompting Ferguson to take the controversial position that skaters had the right to earn money. In response, U.S. Figure Skating developed international “pro/am” competitions, which sanctioned skaters and brought more televised events for figure skating. Dozens of skating shows competed with U.S. Figure Skating for these dollars, and, at its height, 30 skating-related shows were televised in the U.S. between September 1994 and April 1995.

Other highlights during Ferguson’s four-year term include the restructuring of U.S. Figure Skating headquarters’ operations and staff; abolishing athlete trust funds in favor of athlete contracts; developing and implementing Moves in the Field; and the creation of the U.S. Adult Championships.

Prior to her presidency, Ferguson was an Olympic Team Leader and longtime judge. She received her 50-year judge’s pin in 2011 and is one of only 14 Honorary Members of the International Skating Union. She was a board member of the Rhode Island Sports Council and Newport, R.I., Hospital; is a former elected member of Jamestown, R.I., Town Council; was named “Best of R.I.” by Rhode Island Monthly Magazine; and has been recognized for “Pioneering Work as a Woman in Sports” by Rhode Island MonthlyProvidence Journal and the Rhode Island Women’s Commission.

Ferguson was also the first female cheerleader in the Big Ten (where cheer squads had been all-male) at Michigan State University, is a member of Daughters of the American Revolution, and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Rhode Island.

A memorial service celebrating Claire Waters Ferguson life and career will be held in the Spring in Jamestown, RI. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the U.S. Figure Skating Memorial Fund which supports skaters in pursuing their goals both on and off the ice.




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