Meet the Figure Skating Surgeon: Debit Thomas
Black History Fact #10: Debi Thomas 🇺🇸⛸
Debi Thomas was born in 1967 in New York and was raised in California. Her mom raised Debi on her own while working as a computer programming analyst. Debi fell in love with skating at the tender age of 5 and won her first skating competition when she was 9. Her mother was dedicated to Debi’s passion, driving her from home, to school and the ice rink each day.As her skating skills developed, she worked with Alex McGowan in 1983 to represent the LA Figure Skating Club and continued to compete at the world level as a teen.
When she was only 18, she competed in her first World Championship and came in 5th place. Just one year later, she won gold at the World Championship in 1986 along with the US National Title in the same year. With her dominance in US and at the World level, Thomas was named Athlete of the Year and became the only female athlete to win these titles while still attending college full time. She made history becoming the first African American to hold US National titles in ladies singles figure skating! What was even more amazing, is that she was a pre-med student at Stanford University which was rare for a top ranked skater.
After sustaining some injuries, Thomas bounced back for the 1988 Winter Olympics where she won Bronze behind Canadian Elizabeth Manley. Again, history was made, making her the first black athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. She continued to win a couple more World Championships in '89 and '91. Now this is not the only incredible thing Thomas did.
Remember, when I said she was studying pre-med at Stanford? Well, after graduating she did her surgical residency at University of Arkansas and then orthopedic surgery residency at the Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew University Medical Center. Thomas went on to be a practicing orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacement - incredible!
Despite being an accomplished Olympian and a surgeon, Thomas suffers from bipolar disorder which is still an ongoing battle but that does not change the impact she had on the figure skating world. Thank you for being a trailblazer and a pioneer in the sport.
Happy Black History Month ✊🏿