Debi Thomas: Figure Skating Champion and Physician

Debi Thomas
Debi Thomas. Photo Courtesy of Harlick Skating Boots

Debra (Debi) Janine Thomas was born on March 25, 1967, in Poughkeepsie, NY.  In 1986 Thomas became the first African-American to win the World Figure Skating Championship. She won again in 1988 and received a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games, which took place in Calgary, Canada.

Family Life

Both of Debi's parents are computer professionals and her brother is an astrophysicist. She has been married twice. She has one son.

Began Skating Because of Ice Show Comedian Mr. Frick

Debi Thomas credits legendary ice skating show Mr. Frick as being the person who inspired her to give figure skating a try.

'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.'


Thomas attended Stanford University while training and competing. She was only a freshman when she won both the United States National and World Figure Skating titles. Thomas graduated in 1991 with an engineering degree and later continued her studies at  Northwestern University. She graduated from the Feinberg School of Medicine in 1997.

Professional Career

After the 1988 Olympics, Debi Thomas skated professionally. She won three world professional titles and performing with Stars on Ice. After four years, she left professional skating to attend medical school, completing her final year just before her son was born. Thomas became an orthopedic surgeon and worked at hospitals and clinics in Virginia, Indiana, California, and Arkansas.


Debi Thomas was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.