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CALGARY, CANADA -  FEBRUARY 25:  Debi Thomas of the USA skates her Short Program of the Women's Singles event of the Figure Skating competition of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 1988 at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Thomas was the bronze medalist in the event.    (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
History - Science
American figure skater Debi Thomas was known as the first (and so far, only) Black woman to win the National Championship, as well as the first Black athlete to medal in the Winter Olympics, receiving the bronze at the 1988 Games. However, after the Olympics and the 1988 World Championships, Thomas retired from competitive figure skating to focus on her medical career.
Thomas went on to become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in reconstructive surgery for adults and initially set up a practice in Illinois — but then moved practices from Illinois to Indiana and finally to Richlands, Virginia in 2010. The move to Virginia was controversial, as Thomas left her son and husband to move there.
Soon, Thomas started falling behind on her bills and had to close the clinic. In Richlands, she began a relationship with Jamie Looney, the father of a boy she was treating. In 2012, during an argument with Looney, Thomas got hold of a gun and fired it to the ground, and then surrendered to a police officer, saying she had a gun and wanted to hurt herself.
Thomas, by then broke, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder — but she couldn't afford a distressed-physician program. She allowed her medical license to expire, moved into her fiancé's (Looney) trailer, sold her Olympic medal, and finally declared bankruptcy in 2014.
However, Thomas believes that she’s finally free from the shackles she put on herself as a high achiever. In 2014, Thomas launched a GoFundMe for a YouTube show she said would uncover the reality of living in a town like Richlands, exposing life's hardships. She is also trying to recruit people into buying small gold bullion pieces she calls "Karatbars."