Ice skating is my absolute favorite Olympic sport to watch, and I remember like it was yesterday being a six-year-old watching Debi Thomas do her thing. She was RAD then and is certainly RAD now, so know your history sis and read up on this amazing piece of Black History.
1. Family Matters
And momma knows best. Thomas’ mother introduced her to many different activities at a young age–ice skating happened to be one of those many things. She instantly fell in love and her mother instantly began to make sacrifices. In order to ensure her daughters success Momma Thomas would often travel over 100 miles a day between home, school, and the ice rink. Now that’s love.
2. School Rules
While it was at the age of five that Thomas first stepped on the ice, it was also the same age in which she decided she wanted to be a doctor. Hello big dreams! Her education and professional ice skating dream were equally important to her and she has both the titles and diplomas to prove it. Thomas won both the 1986 U.S. national title and the 1986 World Championships all while attending college full-time. This was incredibly rare at the time by the way. I know you are wondering what she was she studying and where she was studying it at? Ahem–something to the tune of pre-med at Stanford University. Nice!
3. Drink To This
While most young girls are counting down the days to their 21st birthday Thomas was counting down the days to her retirement. That’s right, she retired from amateur ice skating immediately after winning the bronze medal at the 1988 World Championships. Done and done…on to other dreams.
4. Millennium Fame
Black history at it’s finest–Thomas was the first African-American to hold U.S. National titles in ladies’ singles figure skating and even went on to being inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000. The 2000’s were a big year for her as Thomas also had the privilege of being selected selected by President George W. Bush to be part of the U.S. Delegation for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin Italy.
5. That’s Dr. Thomas To You
After she was done slaying titles and breaking records Thomas left the ice in order to collect degrees. She went on to graduate from Stanford University in 1991 with a degree in engineering and from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 1997. She did her residency rounds and is currently a practicing orthopedic surgeon with a specialization in hip and knee replacement at a private practice in Virginia. Get it girl!
Robbie Ann Darby (RAD Experience) is a professional FitGirl, Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in NYC. Follow her sweaty life on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more fun health and fitness tips!
Check Out This Gallery Of Black Women In The Olympics!
The History Of Black Athletes In The Winter Olympics
1. Black Olympians
The 2014 Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, Russia and for the first time in 90 years, Black athletes are at the forefront of the icy competition. Athletes like: Shani Davis and Lolo Jones are medal contenders in games like ice-skating and bobsledding that until now, have been mostly devoid of African-Americans. But before we long jump ahead, let's take a look back at Black Olympians who've paved the way.
2. Tai Babilonia (Figure Skating)
Tai Babilonia, with partner Randy Gardner, became the first Winter Olympian of African heritage in 1976 when she set blade on the frigid ice inside the ice skating rink. She is the 1979 World champion and a five-time (1976–1980) U.S. national champion. Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner qualified for the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Babilonia opened the gates for future skaters like Debi Thomas.
3. William "Willie" Davenport (Bobsledding)
William "Willie" Davenport became the first African-American to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympic games as a runner for the American bobsled team. He and field athlete Jeff Gadley were accepted to the U.S. bobsledding team for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Because of the boycott of the 1980 games, he became the only U.S. track and field athlete to participate in the games.
4. Debi Thomas (Ice Skating)
Debi Thomas became the first Black Winter Olympian to win a medal, capturing the bronze in 1988 for U.S. skating. Thomas was known for her daring moves on the rink and was one of the only women to perfect a triple toe-triple toe combination which was rare for a female skaters in the 80s. Thomas was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.
5. Surya Bonaly (Figure Skating)
When it comes to figure skating, there are few skaters who are as impressive as Surya Bonaly. She is the only female to attempt a quadruple toe loop jump and her ability to back flip and land on one blade. She placed 5th in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville and 4th at the 1994 games in Lillehammer and 10th at Nagano in 1998.
6. Vonetta Flowers (Bobsledding)
Vonetta Flowers turned to bobsledding after several failed attempts to make the Summer Olympics. With a nack for speed, she was chosen as the team's breakwoman. She became the first black athlete to win a Winter Olympics gold medal in the in the two-woman event at the 2002 Winter Olympics. She later retired from competition after the 2006 Winter Olympics.
7. Jarome Iginla (Hockey)
Jarome Iginla led the Canadian hockey team to victory at the 2002 Winter Olympics for the first time in 50 years, where he became the first Black man to win a gold medal.
8. Shani Davis (Speedskating)
Competitors in the Speedskating category at the 2014 Winter Olympic should be very afraid! Shani Davis seems unstoppable. After becoming the first Black athlete (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games (and capturing the silver medal in the 1500 meter event), he defended his title at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, making him to first man to do so!
9. The Women’s US Olympic Bobsled Team
Two Black women will sit in the front of the bobsled sleigh for the first time in the history of the Winter Olympics. Track stars Lolo Jones, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, Jazmine Fenlator and veteran bobsledder Elana Meyers make up the 2014 US Women's Bobsled team.