Gabby Thomas is an unabashed overachiever. A star student since she was a teenager, she graduated from Harvard in 2019 with a degree in microbiology and public health while adding a combined 22 Ivy League titles in six track and field events over three years. While pursuing a Master’s degree in epidemiology at the University of Texas, Thomas posted the third-fastest women’s 200-meter dash time ever at the Olympic Trials. And on Tuesday, she brought the bronze medal home. A win in Friday’s 4×100 meter relay would add a gold medal and at least a few new sponsors to her portfolio.
The 24-year-old athlete did not have dreams to become a professional athlete until her last year at Harvard. She signed a contract with New Balance in 2018, a deal that will continue until 2022. Her agent, Paul Doyle of Doyle Management Group, said in a phone interview that the terms of the deal were not disclosed but that new sponsorship deals are on the horizon. Her net worth is said to be around $1 million.
Olympic Bronze Medalist 🥉
THANK YOU to my family, coach, friends, supporters, and New Balance. Couldn’t have done this without you all.❤️
Onwards and upwards! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Bmq70mfjNV
— Gabby Thomas (@ItsGabrielleT) August 4, 2021
Thomas was born in Atlanta but considered northern Massachusetts home, having moved there at age eleven, when her mother, Jennifer Randall, accepted a teaching job at the University of Massachusetts Amherst after receiving her Ph.D. from Emory. Her mother’s academic achievements are “a tough act to follow,” Thomas remembered in a recent interview with the CEO of HUMBL. The digital payment startup recently announced its partnership with Thomas. She is one of the many US track athletes the company offered partnerships with, however, the details of the partnership are not disclosed.
Gabby Thomas’s path to success started at the prestigious Williston Northampton School, where she dabbled into nearly every sport—from gymnastics to horseback riding, soccer to lacrosse, golf to karate. But what always set Thomas apart from her peers was how fast she was. Thomas won her first race in middle school but did not take track seriously until her junior year of high school. And shortly thereafter, the recruiting messages began pouring in. Thomas considered LSU and Oregon but chose Harvard to concentrate on her education as well as her passion for track and field.
“She was a standout no matter what,” Harvard professor Evelynn Hammonds said in a phone interview. Thomas took Hammonds’ freshman seminar, “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Health Disparities in African American Communities,” a class that led Thomas to focus on global health, as well as microbiology. She wrote a paper about African Americans and the high rates of Type 2 diabetes. Before she graduated, she also did an independent study with Hammonds, comparing the crack epidemic in the 1980s to the opioid epidemic that currently plagues parts of the country.
“I was deeply impressed with Gabby,” Hammonds said. “She was really performing at the highest level during her time at college, she was doing very well at NCAA meets, and always came to class well-prepared. She also really enjoyed it. Her attitude was always very optimistic. And that’s impressive. I mean [at] Harvard, a lot of students get really, really stressed out.
View this post on Instagram
That positive outlook pulled Thomas through a moment of shock last May. She had relocated to Austin for school and started training, without a clear goal to participate in Olympic Trials in June—when she began feeling severe pain in her hamstring. She went for an MRI, which came back with disturbing news. Doctors told her she had a tumor in her liver. While waiting for her results, contemplating whether or not she can ever run again, she made a promise to herself: If her tests came back clean, she was going to the Trials and qualify for the Olympics.
The tumor was benign, and so Thomas began training relentlessly until the Trials in June. There, she crossed the finish line in the 200 meters only a few tenths of a second slower than the world record, set by her mother’s favorite athlete, the late Florence Griffith Joyner.
Still, nobody expected Thomas to cross the finish line in 21.61 seconds—not even her. “I blacked out!” she told the NBC reporter after the race. She said qualifying for the Olympics was much harder than “getting accepted to Harvard.”
Yet, she did not show a sign of stress while competing in what is said to be the most competitive track event in the Olympics. The sprinter crossed the finish line behind Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah and Namibian Christine Mboma.
Post Tokyo, Thomas is joining healthcare startup Leidos as an intern. She is “inhaling confidence, exhaling doubt,” moving on to her next achievement: fixing disparities in health care and possibly getting a Ph.D.
After all, Olympic medalist or not, Thomas just wants to live up to her mom’s achievements.