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Debi Thomas

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Title: Debi Thomas  
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Subject: U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 1986 World Figure Skating Championships, Tara Lipinski, Kimmie Meissner, Peggy Fleming
Collection: 1967 Births, African-American Sportspeople, American Female Single Skaters, American Physicians, American Surgeons, Feinberg School of Medicine Alumni, Figure Skaters at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Living People, Medalists at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Olympic Bronze Medalists for the United States, Olympic Figure Skaters of the United States, Olympic Medalists in Figure Skating, People from Poughkeepsie, New York, Sportspeople from New York, Sportspeople from San Jose, California, Stanford University Alumni, University of Arkansas Alumni, World Figure Skating Championships Medalists
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Debi Thomas

Debi Thomas
Personal information
Full name Debra Jerod Thomaine
Country represented United States
Born (1967-03-25) March 25, 1967
Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.
Height 1.67 m (5 ft 5 12 in)
Former coach Alex McGowan
Skating club Los Angeles Figure Skating Club

Debra Janine Thomas (born March 25, 1967) is an American figure skater and physician. She is the 1986 World champion, two-time U.S. national champion and 1988 Olympic bronze medalist. Her rivalry with East Germany's Katarina Witt at the 1988 Calgary Olympics was known as the Battle of the Carmens.


  • Personal life 1
  • Competitive career 2
  • Medical career 3
  • Programs 4
  • Competitive highlights 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Personal life

Thomas was born in

Competitive career

Debi was introduced to Scottish skating coach Alex McGowan at age 10. In the 1983 skating season, Thomas began to represent the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, which launched her career. McGowan would remain her coach until she retired from amateur competition at age 21.[2]

Thomas won both the 1986 U.S. national title and the 1986 World Championships; those achievements earned Thomas the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year award that year. She was the first female athlete to win those titles while attending college full-time since Tenley Albright in the 1950s. She was the first African-American to hold U.S. National titles in ladies' singles figure skating.[3] Thomas was a pre-med student at Stanford University during this time although it was unusual for a top U.S. skater to go to college at the same time as competing.[3]

In 1987, Thomas was injured with Achilles tendinitis in both ankles and struggled at the U.S. Nationals, placing second to Jill Trenary.[4] She rebounded at the World Championships, finishing a close second to East German skater Katarina Witt.

In January 1988, Thomas reclaimed the U.S. National title. At the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary, she and Katarina Witt engaged in a rivalry that the media dubbed the "Battle of the Carmens", as both women skated their long programs to the music of Bizet's opera Carmen. Thomas skated strong compulsory figures and performed well in the short program to an instrumental version of "Something in My House" by Dead or Alive. In the long program, she made mistakes on a number of jumps and placed fourth in that segment of the competition. Overall, she finished third and won the bronze medal, behind Witt and Canadian skater Elizabeth Manley (Thomas fell from first place going into the long program to third place overall in the final standings). By winning the bronze medal, Thomas became the first black athlete to win any medal at the Winter Olympics.[5] Thomas won the bronze medal at the 1988 World Championships and then retired from amateur skating.

Thomas was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000. She was also selected by President Dorothy Hamill, Eric Heiden, Kerri Strug, and Herschel Walker. Thomas returned to the ice briefly to participate in "The Caesars Tribute: A Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating", an event which featured many of the greatest legends and icons of American figure skating.

Thomas completed a triple toe-triple toe combination which was rare for a female skater in the 1980s.

Medical career

After her figure skating career, Thomas went back to school to become an orthopedic surgeon. She graduated from Stanford University in 1991 with a degree in engineering and from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 1997. Thomas followed this with a surgical residency at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Hospital and an orthopedic surgery residency at the Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew University Medical Center in South Central Los Angeles.

In June 2005, Thomas graduated from the Orthopaedic Residency Program at Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles. She spent the next year preparing for Step I of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons' exam and working at King-Drew Medical Center as a junior attending physician specialist. In July 2006, she began a one-year fellowship at the Dorr Arthritis Institute at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, for sub-specialty training in adult reconstructive surgery.

Debi worked for two different private organizations before deciding to open a private orthopaedic practice, ORTHO X-cellence Debra J. Thomas, MD, PC in Richlands, Virginia. She made this decision to try and gain more freedom in the care of her patients, but found it to be a financial impossibility, so she closed her practice and left the field of medicine in January 2014.


Season Short program Free skating Exhibition
1987–1988 "Something in My House"
by Dead or Alive

Competitive highlights

Event 1982–83 1983–84 1984–85 1985–86 1986–87 1987–88
Winter Olympics 3rd
World Championships 5th 1st 2nd 3rd
Skate America 1st
Skate Canada 1st
NHK Trophy 2nd
St. Ivel International 1st
Nebelhorn Trophy 1st
U.S. Championships 13th 6th 2nd 1st 2nd 1st


  1. ^ Aquitania, Ray E. M.D.(2011)Jock-Docs: World-Class Athletes Wearing White Coats ISBN 9781609106126
  2. ^ 1
  3. ^ a b Swift, E.M. (February 17, 1986). "Books Or Blades, There's No Doubting Thomas".  
  4. ^ Janofsky, Michael (January 6, 1988). "Skaters Have No More Time to Dream". The New York Times. 
  5. ^
  • "Debi Thomas". Olympics at  

Debi Thomas personal entries.

External links

  • Where are they now? Debi Thomas
  • Stanford Magazine: Good-Bye Skates, Hello Scrubs
  • The News-Gazette: Olympic skater Thomas joins Carle orthopedic staff
  • Notable Black American women By Jessie Carney Smith
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