She Was The First Black Athlete To Win A Medal At The Winter Olympics, And Then She Became A Surgeon

Parilov - - illustrative purposes only

Debi Thomas was a woman who not only made history as an Olympic figure skater but was able to pursue an entirely different career when she wasn’t on the ice.

Debi Thomas was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1967. She started skating at the age of five and won her first competition by the time she was nine.

From that point on, she knew she wanted to figure sake competitively, and her mother would drive her far distances so she could compete. 

She began training with coach Alex McGowan, who coached her all the way into retirement and joined the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club in 1983. She competed in several esteemed competitions, like the World Championships in 1985 and 1986.

Debi faced a lot of discrimination for her skin color as she competed, but the negativity didn’t stop her.

What makes Debi’s career even more impressive is that instead of taking a gap year after high school or not attending college, like many young competitive athletes choose to do, she started her freshman year at Stanford University in the middle of her training in 1986, the year she won the U.S. national title.

This made her the first black skater to hold the national title in the ladies’ singles figure skating. I can’t imagine accomplishing something like that during my freshman year!

Throughout her time in college, Debi continued to compete. She only took one small break from her studies between 1987-1989 for competitions.

In 1987, she suffered from Achilles tendinitis in both of her ankles but still managed to place second at the U.S. Nationals. 

Parilov – – illustrative purposes only

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