Debi Thomas (born March 25, 1967), is an American Medical doctor best known as a former World and Olympic Figure skater. She won the World Championships in 1986 and a bronze medal at the 1988 Winter Games becoming the first Black athlete from any nation to achieve these accomplishments. (Tai Babilonia who is of black and Filipino decent was previously a U.S. and World champion in Pair skating.) Thomas now practices orthopedic Surgery and specializes in hip and knee replacement.
Thomas won both the 1986 U.S. National ladies' figure skating title and the Ladies' title at the 1986 World Figure Skating Championships; those achievements earned Thomas the ABC's Wide World of Sports (U.S. TV series) 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 represented the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club from 1983 on, which launched her career. She was coached by Alex McGowan from age 10 until she retired from amateur competition at age 21. In 1987, Thomas was injured with Achilles tendinitis in both ankles and struggled at the U.S. Nationals, placing second to Jill Trenary, but rebounded at the World Championships, finishing a close second to East German skater Katarina Witt. Thomas was a pre-med student at Stanford University during this time, and she became the only African American to hold U.S. National titles in ladies' singles figure skating.
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 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 (band), but performed poorly in the long program, but well enough to finish third, and win the bronze medal, behind Witt and Canadian skater Elizabeth Manley. Thomas won the bronze medal at the 1988 World Figure Skating Championships and then retired from amateur skating.
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, Debi graduated from the Orthopaedic Residency Program at Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew University Medical Center 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. In September 2007, Thomas joined the orthopedic staff at Carle Clinic Association in Urbana, Illinois.
She hopes to have some future involvement with U.S. Figure Skating Sports Medicine studying the figure skater's hip.
In 1988, Thomas married Brian Vanden Hogen, a fellow college student. They later divorced and in 1996 she married Chris Bequette, who runs his own financial planning business which caters to college and pro football coaches, called American Coaches Wealth Management. She has a son, Christopher Jules ("Luc"), born in 1997. Luc aspires to be a baseball player.
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 .