Figure skating has always been dominated by a few countries. In the 1980’s, nations from the Soviet Bloc held the sport in a stranglehold. It was in 1988, however, that African-American figure skater Debi Thomas had a chance to bring down the current queen of women’s figure skating, East Germany’s Katarina Witt.
During the 1986 World Figure Skating Championships, Thomas successfully chased down the gold and unseated Witt. It was the 1988 Olympics, however, that the world was watching. Thomas took a chance with a risky combination in her routine, two triple-revolution jumps in quick succession. Unfortunately, Thomas’s gamble did not quite pay off. Witt took back both her title as queen of the ice and the gold medal. Thomas took the bronze.
While Debi Thomas did not bring home a gold medal, she did make history at the Calgary Olympics. Thomas was not just the first African-American to win a figure skating medal. She was the first African-American to ever make the medal stand in a Winter Olympics.