Debi Thomas

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Debi Thomas
Personal information
Full name Debra Janine Thomas
Country represented United States
Born (1967-03-25) March 25, 1967 (age 48)
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[edit]

Thomas was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. She grew up in San Jose, California, where she started skating at age 5. Thomas competed in her first figure skating competition at age 9, finishing 1st place. From then on, she was hooked on competitive skating.[1] She attributes most of her success to her mother who sacrificed to drive her over 100 miles a day between home, school, and the ice rink. Debi wanted to be a doctor from age 5 and was a practicing orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hip and knee replacement. She has one son named Christopher Jules "Luc" Bequette (b. 1997). She and fiance Jamie Looney now live with his two sons, Ethan and Austin in Southwest Virginia. Thomas was featured in the November 7, 2015, episode of the television series, Iyanla: Fix My Life, on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Competitive career[edit]

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 suffered 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 Georges 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 George W. Bush to be part of the U.S. Delegation for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin Italy along with other former Olympians: 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[edit]

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.[6]

As of December 2010, Thomas was in private practice at ORTHO X-cellence Debra J. Thomas, MD, PC in Richlands, Virginia,[6] now defunct. She holds no active licenses in Virginia, Indiana, California, or Arkansas as of November 5, 2015. Her medical license in Virginia expired in March 2014.[7] Virginia Department of Health Professions has a "Pending" Order dated July 17, 2015, regarding the status of her medical license to practice. [8]

Post medical career[edit]

As of 2015, Thomas was reportedly living in a bed bug-infested trailer in the Appalachian mountains with her fiance who struggles with anger and alcohol issues. Thomas states she is "broke" and lost custody of her now 18- year old son when he was 13.[9][10]


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

Competitive highlights[edit]

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". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ Janofsky, Michael (January 6, 1988). "Skaters Have No More Time to Dream". The New York Times. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "AHIMA speaker - Dr. Debi Thomas". The American Health Information Management Association. Retrieved November 16, 2015. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "DHP Notices and Orders". Virginia Department of Health. 
  9. ^ Chan, Melissa (Nov 7, 2015). "Olympic figure skater and doctor Debi Thomas reveals she’s broke, living in bug-infested trailer in emotional interview". NY Daily News. Retrieved 8 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Carlson, Adam (Nov 7, 2015). "History-Making Olympian Debi Thomas Reveals She Is Now Broke and Living in a Bed Bug-Infested Trailer". People. Retrieved 8 November 2015. 

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