The first thing you’d learn about Debi Thomas is her status as a retired American skater. Among her kinds, she stands out for various reasons which range from being a world champion in 1986 to an Olympic bronze medalist in 1988 and a two-time U.S national champion.
Disregarding the above, there is more to who she is; Debi trained as a doctor and did practice the noble profession afterwards – here are the facts of her life.
Debi Thomas – Bio
Debi (Debra Janine Thomas) was born on March 25, 1967, in Poughkeepsie, New York and grew up in San Jose, California. As a toddler, little Debi disclosed to her mum that she would like to make a living out of skating after watching an Ice Follies skating show. In furtherance of this, she got her first skating shoes at age 5 and began skating earnestly, learning and having fun at the same time under the tutelage of Barbara Toigo Vitkovits at Eastridge Mall in San Jose.
She won her first skating competition at 9 years old coupled with some other winnings that came her way like the national novice silver medal which she won at the age of 12 albeit several discriminations from judges because she was black.She, however, started representing the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club in 1983 which further gave a boost to her career and shamed those judges who racially discriminated against her. Debi Thomas signed with Scottish skating coach Alex McGowan for formal skating lessons and he guided her career up to her Olympic winnings.
For the ABC’s Sports Athlete of the Year award of 1986 which she won, Debi won both the U.S national title and the World Championships in that year as the first female athlete to win both titles while still being in college (Stanford University) as a full-time student. She also received the Candace Award for Trailblazing from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Her youth saw a lot of career achievements for her as a skater – thanks to her perseverance despite the discriminations she encountered when she was still coming up as an amateur skater. She ranked 12th in the Q Score athlete standings in February 1989 as the only woman in the top 22.
Debi didn’t stifle her dream of becoming a medical doctor in favour of her skating career. She graduated from college in 1991 with an engineering degree before proceeding to study at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine where she graduated in 1997. This was followed by her surgical residency training at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Hospital and later an orthopaedic surgery residency at the Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew University Medical Center in South Central Los Angeles where she graduated from in 2005. She specialized in hip and knee replacement as an orthopaedic surgeon
Her Family – Parents, Husband and Son
Although Debi was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, she was brought up in California’s San Jose where her parents who were both computer specialists were offered jobs in one of the new-tech companies that helped create the Silicon Valley we know today.
Her family was one of the very few African American families that resided in the neighbourhood then. Sadly, she was raised by her mum Janice Thomas as a single parent because her father – McKinley Thomas (a computer program manager) parted ways with her mum in 1974 when she was still young.
Debi’s mother can be said to be well-off then and able to take care of her child’s needs since she worked as computer programming analyst in Sunnyvale, California.
While Debi Thomas had an enviable career as an athlete, her marriage life has nothing to be desired of as it was filled to the brim with a lot of turbulence.
She got married in Boulder, Colorado to Brian Vander Hogen on March 15, 1988, but didn’t last long in the marriage as the love that once brought them together grew cold and recorded a divorce in 1991.
Then came Chris Bequette, a sports attorney. She married him in 1996 and had a son with him in 1997. They named him Christopher Jules “Luc” Bequette. The couple later divorced in 2010. Now, Debi is living with her fiance – Jamie Looney and his two sons, Ethan and Austin in southwest Virginia.
Quick Facts About Debi Thomas
1. Debi Thomas was born on 25th March 1957;
2. Her birthplace was Poughkeepsie, New York, United States;
3. She attended Northwestern Medical School and Stanford University;
4. She has a height of 5 feet 5.5 inches and a body weight of 53kg;
5. She now has grey hair;
6. She lost custody of her son in the course of her second divorce;
8. Debi is said to have lost all her life savings and now struggles to live.