This Day in Black History: March 21, 1986

Debi Thomas became the first Black to win the Women's World Figure Skating Championship.

Posted: 03/21/2014 08:30 PM EDT

 (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Olympian figure skater Debi Thomas has had two successful careers in her lifetime. On March 21, 1986, she became the first African-American to win the Women's World Figure Skating Championship. Two years later, she competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, where she won a bronze medal and became the first African-American to win a winter sports medal in the games.

Thomas, who was born on March 25, 1967, in Poughkeepsie, New York, started skating at age 5 and then began taking lessons and competing. She signed with the coach who would ultimately train her for the Olympics at age 10. The year that she won the World Championship, she also became the first African-American to win a non-novice title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where she took the senior spot.

Thomas retired from skating in 1991 after earning a graduate degree from Stanford University and entering Northwestern University Medical School. She is an orthopedic surgeon and works in private practice in Virginia, where she specializes in knee and hip replacements.

In 2000, Thomas was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame and served as a U.S. Olympic Committee representative at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

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