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  1. #1
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    Remembering and appreciating the great Debi Thomas!

    Looking back on the 80s Debi Thomas is a skater I like alot and have a tremendous amount of admiration for. Her skating abilities at the time were extremely complete being one of the Worlds best in compulsory figures, being one of the best and most athletic jumpers, having excellent spins and footwork, very strong basic skating, and even though some criticized her artistry she was a powerful skater with a very nice line (better than Witt's by far IMO), strong positions, and a nice musical sense. Her choreography wasnt always the best, but she improved greatly in that area with her short programs of 87 and 88, and her 88 long program.

    What I liked most about her though was how she was able to combine being a full time medical student, and still practicing and competing at the highest level as both an amateur and pro for so many years. She also had a great attitude and her casual and refreshingly candid comments and views on everything were rare to see in the sport. It is a shame she did end her career as the 88 Olympic and World Champion. Both titles were there for the taking for her, and would have elevated her career to a new stratosphere altogether. It is also great to see someone who was willing to make skating just a chapter in their life and move on to something bigger and better by becoming a doctor. You rarely see that as well.

  2. #2

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    Jeez, I saw this thread title and thought she had died....

    (FWIW she was a pre-med student while she was competing, and didn't go to medical school until after she had retired from competition.)
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  3. #3

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    Link to TSL's podcast interview with Debi Thomas earlier this year in GSD (includes video links): http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/show...st-Debi-Thomas

    Manleywoman's August 2009 podcast with Thomas: http://www.manleywoman.com/episode-30-debi-thomas/
    Last edited by Sylvia; 05-27-2013 at 02:30 AM.
    "Randy [Starkman (1960-April 16, 2012)] lived by the same motto as the rest of us. The Olympics isn’t every four years, it’s every single day. He just got it." --Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden

  4. #4
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    I too enjoyed watching Debi's skating career unfold. She also had a very good (if relatively short) pro career winning World Pros and touring in shows. There was another thread sometime ago that discussed Debi with links to some of her programs. Debi wore the bodysuit when it was radical for an eligible ladies competitor to do so.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChmdEFrn3OY Olympic sp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwICVVTKRpc her famous Wanda performance

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB18hTAAGIU 1986 U.S. Nationals lp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pAZdZGUo_U 1986 Worlds lp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_e16EHE46o 2010 Caesar's Tribute performance


    Also here's a link to manleywoman's podcast interview with Debi on August 24, 2009:
    http://www.manleywoman.com/episode-30-debi-thomas/

    Oh, sorry, Sylvia, I just now see that you edited your post to link manleywoman's interview before I posted.

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    Holy cow. The title is ripe for misinterpretation.

  6. #6
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    Remembering is a total title of a eulogy.

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    She was the most complete skater of the 86-88 period. It was a shame the judges did not appreciate she was a more complete skater than Witt and kept awarding Witt all the big titles.

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    Which major title did Debi deserve to win over Witt beside the 86 Worlds, which Debi only won because Witt messed up her SP? I would give Debi the SP win in Calgary, but she wouldn't have won the Olympic title anyway if she had skated the same LP.

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    Debi was the best skater of the 85-88 period I agree, but just not always the best competitor. Her mistake in the short cost her the 87 World title, and the 88 major events was just sad as those were both hers to win.

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    ^^ Annh, the skating politics weren't in Debi's favor in '88, and the media was mostly ogling and championing Witt. It was a pressure cooker for Debi and she allowed the pressure to get to her. Unfortunately, Debi's coach didn't take the best approach to help calm her either. The American media was particularly cruel to Debi after the Olympics. The headlines were brutal.

  11. #11
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    Politics may have been in Witt's favor but had Thomas skated her beautiful Carmen with the great technical merit she showed in Skate Canada 1987 and U.S Championships in 1988 she still would have won both the Olympics and Worlds. The judges would have had no choice in the matter. Also notice how at the Olympics even after the great skates of Ito and Manley and the good skate of Witt they still left 5.9, 5.9 on every card, and that means all the judges were saving to give Thomas 5.9 for both tehcnical and artistic if she skated clean.

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    ^^ Boy, you seem to know so much about what the judges were gonna do. Were you one of them? Anyways, like I said, Debi allowed the pressure to get to her. As Debi mentioned in interviews years later, she felt like she had to be absolutely perfect, thus she was tight and negative going into the fp. You can't go out there thinking, "I have to land everything." With that thought in your head, you won't. Debi was clearly the best technically in a head-to-head with Witt, and Debi was also no slouch either in terms of good choreo and presentation skills. It's not often mentioned, but I believe Debi chose Carmen first. It was publicized that she was receiving tips from a dancer in the ballet world.

    Also, you are highly underestimating the fierce competitiveness of Katarina Witt which carried a unique power and energy all its own. Debi wilted against Witt's "I'm gonna win this, I gotta win this! I AM CARMEN![/I] glare, and on-ice sexual posturing.

    Indeed Witt felt she had to win gold again, in order to win her freedom from the Iron Curtain grip of East Germany, despite the fact the wall dividing East and West Germany would physically fall a year later. The thing is, Witt went out on the ice with no doubts and no negative thinking.

    In any case, if the judges were actually so eager to give Debi the win (if she'd managed to skate well in the fp), then she sure as hell shoulda been the sp winner! Fact is, the judges made it as hard as they could for her. Debi did not summon the necessary calm and inner strength she usually displayed on the ice. She had a lot of obstacles to surmount, including her own nerves and her coach's nerves and his ill-advised complaints to the press when Debi didn't win the sp.
    Last edited by aftershocks; 06-01-2013 at 09:07 PM.

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    Debi Thomas was intelligent and real, and not only that: her Carmen was the superior program. The smart ones today are coached to be artificial. Over the top Rusians are the last vestige of authenticity left in this highly commercialized sport. We are lucky Debi skated in a time when she, Jill Trenary, Christopher Bowman, and Caryn Kadavy could essentially be themselves at all times and all phases of the competition.

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    ^^ Thanks for your comments, TheIronLady! Quite true, indeed, Debi is very intelligent, honest, and real.

    And Debi had the superior Carmen, but unfortunately she didn't skate her program in that penultimate moment. It was so sad to see the air go completely out of her after the first element (3/3 combo). She could still have triumphed even with the double-foot on the second jump of the combo, only she didn't believe she could win unless she was absolutely perfect. She skated the rest of the program on auto-pilot, with neither energy nor desire.

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    Always loved Debi and I never get tired of watching her skate. I visit YouTube quite a lot to watch her fabulous skating. She'll always be one of the #1 skaters in my book.
    Angie
    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

  16. #16
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    She was a great skater and great person. She was one of my first favorites since I started following skater only at the 84 Olympics. She came on the scene just after that. I think she also paved for the way for black skaters since the sport was pretty racist until then I believe!

  17. #17
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    ^^ Very simplistic statement. Certainly there is a history of bias and elitism in figure skating, and the bias still exists in many ways.

    In any case, it's not as if the doors were opened to a whole bunch of black figure skaters post Debi's success. Plus it's an expensive sport which also limits opportunities for many be they black, white, brown, red or purple. There were also a few accomplished black skaters in the sport pre- Debi's success, but not really on the senior level with one notable exception. I'm sure Debi was an inspiration for a lot of young skaters of color who later entered the sport, but few made it to the top levels. Rory Flack was coming up the ranks too just behind Debi, but Rory never had great success at the amateur level. I remember seeing her name but I never even knew Rory was black until I saw her skate in pro competitions.

    Mabel Fairbanks is a famous pioneering black skater who was never allowed to join any clubs and thus could never compete at U.S. Nationals. Even Carol Heiss and Dorothy Hamill from working-class backgrounds had trouble getting into elitist figure skating clubs back in the day, but sure it was easier for them to overcome the snubs than it was for Mabel. Maribel Vinson Owen recognized Mabel's talent and gave her free lessons, and Mabel toured in professional shows internationally. After retiring from skating, Mabel Fairbanks became a coach in California and famously paired and coached Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner before they went to John Nicks once their huge talent and potential was more widely recognized.

    And btw, Tai is mixed-race (the notable exception I was referring to earlier). Although from my recollection, it was never widely publicized that Tai's mother is African-American until the 1980 Olympics. At least the stuff I always read early on in the media about Tai simply emphasized her father's Asian/ Filipino roots. Certainly, Tai's mixed background was well known among insiders who knew her mother during those early years of Tai's and Randy's development as young skaters.

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    Why wasnt Rory ever a strong amateur skater. In pro competitions she sometimes landed a triple lutz and given her artistry and amazing split and others qualities she should have done better. Maybe it was her same problem as a pro, consistency issues though?

  19. #19
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    I think we should keep this thread about Debi and not just bring in every skater who happens to also be black (not that I deserve any awards for staying on topic).

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    I'm sorry I didn't start to really following fs in greater detail before the 1988 Olympics. We missed the years from 1984-1988 almost completely, and regret it to this day. Debi was in the first Caesars' Tribute to the Golden Age of Figure Skating in Atlantic City, NJ (12/10), and she was a joy to behold. Last year we got to meet her by chance @ US Nationals in San Jose, and it was a treat & honor to meet/talk to her.

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