Figure Skating
Skater Bios
 Thursday, February 24
Where are they now? Debi Thomas
ABC Sports Online report

 A queen of the ice, Debi Thomas was one of the most popular female sports stars of the 1980s.

Thomas burst onto the figure skating scene in 1986, when she won the national and world championships during her freshman year at Stanford University. In honor of these feats, she was named Wide World of Sports' 1986 Athlete of the Year. Two years later she added a second national title along with a bronze medal in the Olympics.

Debi Thomas
Debi Thomas is the only African-American to win a medal in the Winter Olympics.

After earning three world professional skating championships, Thomas graduated from Stanford in 1991 with a degree in engineering. She graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1997 and intends to specialize in orthopedic surgery.

Thomas married sports attorney Chris Bequette in the fall of 1996. The couple lives in Little Rock, Ark., with their two-year-old son Christopher.

This weekend, Thomas will cap her skating career with an induction into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

ABC Sports Online: What was it like to win the national championship in 1986?

Debi Thomas: That was probably one of the best experiences that I've ever had in skating. There were so many people saying that I [couldn't] do [that] and go to school full time, and I was able to prove them wrong.

ABC Sports Online: How would you compare winning in '86 to winning in '88?

Debi Thomas: Both were very different. In 1988, that was probably the best-trained I ever was during my skating career. It was one of those competitions where you knew you were ready, but you didn't want to blow it by not having your head straight. Plus, it also meant a lot because it was the Olympic year, and if I wanted a shot at Olympic gold I needed to be national champion.

ABC Sports Online: What was your favorite memory of the Olympics?

Debi Thomas: I've erased that from my memory. The Olympics: not one of my better memories. The majority of the competition I was doing well. It was disappointing to know that it was a much better schedule than what I performed. It all comes down to psychology. The things going through my mind were not the right things to focus on. I got a bronze medal and I can't complain about that, the only African-American to get a medal in the Winter Olympics.

ABC Sports Online: What was the most special moment for you in your figure skating career?

Debi Thomas: Probably the '86 nationals. That was my first real national title and first real statement I ever made in figure skating, and my life changed after I returned. Then I went on to win worlds, which added to the change in my life. Winning that was outstanding, but I skated better at the nationals.

What was most important to me at the Olympics was going out there and performing my best. When I messed up the first jump combination, which was my big move, it hit me that I messed up the program of my life. It is hard to overturn that. Maybe if I was more concerned with the gold medal than my performance, I probably wouldn't have missed anything else. My skating is a very emotional thing that comes from the heart, never doing it for the medal.

ABC Sports Online: What brought figure skating into your life?

Debi Thomas: My mother introduced me to many different things, and figure skating was one of them. I just thought that it was magical having to glide across the ice. I begged my mom to let me start skating. My idol was the comedian Mr. Frick, formerly of Frick and Frack. I would be on the ice, "Look mom, I'm Mr. Frick." When I went to my first world championship, I mentioned the story, and Mr. Frick saw it on TV. He sent me a letter and we met at Geneva when I won the world championship.

ABC Sports Online: Why and when did you decide to pursue engineering, medicine and the sciences?

Debi Thomas: I am not really sure how I got interested in medicine. For as long as I can really remember, I wanted to be a doctor. Even as a little girl, I would be questioned about what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would say "doctor." I would make my mom buy me the toy doctor kit.

I was always very strong in math, physics and calculus. In college, when I had to declare a major, I first went for medical microbiology, but it wasn't what I thought it would be. My sophomore year I lived in this co-ed fraternity called Alpha Sigma Phi, and one of my friends was a mechanical engineer. And I thought it was so fun to see him always making stuff. Then I left for awhile to train for the Olympics, and when I came back I no longer wanted to be a medical microbiology major. So I went for engineering, specifically product design, which I enjoyed.

With orthopedics, I imagine that I can use my experience to make better prosthetic devices or surgical equipment. First I have to get into orthopedics. Right now I am doing my residency in orthopedic research.

ABC Sports Online: How do you feel about being inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame?

Debi Thomas: It is great to be a part of the whole skating family, and it makes me feel ecstatic that my name will be among the greats of the sport.

ABC Sports Online: Tell us a little about your volunteer work. Which is the most rewarding for you?

Debi Thomas: I am doing a figure skating clinic right now for inner-city youth in Chicago along with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Teaching the young to skate. I sit on all these committees, the U.S. Figure Skating Sports Medicine Committee and the U.S. Olympic Sports Medicine Committee.

ABC Sports Online: How much do you monitor the sport now? Who are your favorite skaters to watch?

Debi Thomas: I watch a lot of professional skating, and I am really looking forward to going to nationals. I haven't really taken a look at the new up-and-comers. I judged the world professional championship in 1999, and it felt good to be on the other side judging instead of skating.