Following a uniquely challenging 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo—no crowds to cheer athletes on, limited movement through the city, few families present to support players—Gabby Thomas ’15 is coming home with two medals for Team USA Track and Field: a bronze for the 200 meter and a silver for the 4 x 100-meter relay.
At the Olympic Trials this spring in Eugene, Oregon, Thomas clocked the third-fastest time in the world, 21.61, for the 200 m. At the time of the race, only Florence Griffith Joyner, Flo-Jo, twice ran faster. During the Olympic finals in Tokyo, Jamaica’s Elaine Thomson-Herah shaved 0.8 seconds off Thomas’ time, winning gold in 21.53. Silver medalist Namibia’s Christine Mboma crossed the line in 21.81. Thomas made it in 21.87.
During her relay run, Thomas and her teammates Jenna Prandini, Teahna Daniels, and Aleia Hobbs struck silver, following the Jamaican team across the finish line, followed by Great Britain.
Thomas graduated from Harvard in 2019 with a degree in neurobiology, global health, and health policy and now is pursuing a master’s degree in epidemiology and health care management at the University of Texas.
Leading up to and following her two medal-winning Tokyo races, Thomas was featured in a number of national news stories, including TODAY, CNN, The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Washington Post.
In a piece by CBS News, she talks about how the pandemic laid bare health care disparities among different races, and that she wants to work to solve them. “You could just see the need for racial and ethnic diversity in public health because these disadvantaged populations have been just neglected for so long,” she told CBS News. The COVID crisis “solidified that I wanted to do what I was doing. It put public health at the forefront for everyone else.”
Her track coach at Williston Northampton School, Martha McCullagh, has been thrilled to see Thomas on the Olympic podium. “Gabby is as successful as she is in large part due to her ability to focus and compartmentalize all that she does,” McCullagh said. “She has defined her passions—health care and health care disparities, along with international-level sprinting. When she is working in either area she is focused on that. When she’s finished she turns her attention to the other.” However, Thomas’ success on the track and professionally doesn’t show the complete person, McCullagh noted. “She has also stayed true to herself being kind, compassionate, and genuine,” she said. “She exemplifies Purpose, Passion, and Integrity,” Williston’s motto.
A member of Williston’s Anti-Racism Committee and a recent alumni presenter on establishing a running practice, Thomas was featured in The Bulletin in 2016. Look for an article about her in the winter 2021 edition of the magazine.
Top photo by Petr David Josek/AP.