Twenty six years ago in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, during the 1988 Winter Olympics an American figure skater named Debi Thomas made history. At the time of the competition she was the first American black female to hold U.S. National titles in ladies’ singles figure skating.
Thomas is the only African American who ever won a medal in the Olympics in figure skating. She is the first African American to win a medal in any Winter Olympic sport.
Debra J. Thomas, now a private practice medical professional since 2010, began her figure skating career in 1983 when she represented the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.
Thomas was winner of the 1986 U.S. national title and the 1986 World Championships; those achievements earned Thomas the ABC’s teevee network’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year award in 1986. Thomas was the first female athlete to win those titles while attending college full-time.It had been more than thirty years since another female figure skater, Tenley Albright, did the same in the 1950s. Tenley Albright, the 1956 Olympic Champion, has degrees in medicine as well and practices surgery along with her husband, also a medical doctor, in Boston.
Debi J. Thomas was the first African-American to hold U.S. National titles in ladies’ singles figure skating. Thomas was a pre-med student at Stanford University during this time. It was unusual for a top U.S. skater to go to college while competing. She won the bronze at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada.
During her skating program Thomas completed a triple toe-triple toe combination a rare feat to be attempted and successfully completed for a female skater in the 1980s.
After the 1988 Olympics, Debi Thomas skated professionally. She skated with Stars on Ice and she also won three world professional titles. After four years, she left professional skating to attend medical school.
Thomas completed undergraduate studies at Stanford University in 1991. She is a 1997 graduate of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and today practices as an orthopedic surgeon in her practice in Richlands, Virginia.
Debi J. Thomas, M.D., was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.