Before Gabby Thomas stepped onto the track, the Ivy League wasn't known for producing Olympic medalists. At only 24 years old, the elite sprinter has already carved a name out for herself in track-and-field athletics. Thomas specializes in the 200-meter dash, an event once dominated by the late Florence Griffith Joyner. At the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this year, Thomas won the 200-meter race in an astonishing 21.61 seconds, which at the time was the third-fastest time ever recorded for that race. Thomas followed this by making her Olympic debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where she won two medals — a bronze medal in the 200 meters and a silver medal for running the anchor leg of the U.S. 4x100 meter team. A Harvard graduate, Thomas has continued her academic career alongside her athletic one. Currently, she is pursuing a graduate degree in epidemiology and health care management at the University of Texas. Her mission is to make the nation’s healthcare system more equitable for African Americans.
Coming out of high school, Thomas was heavily recruited by Harvard University, who offered the standout track athlete a scholarship. In her three years before turning pro, Thomas won 22 conference titles in six different events. As a student, she set eight all-time Harvard records in women’s track, six in individual events, and two as part of a relay team. During the 2017-18 indoor track season, Thomas became the first NCAA sprint champion in Ivy League history, winning the 200-meter dash while setting an NCAA indoor record. She is also a five-time All-Ivy League athlete and an eight-time USTFCCCA All-American. Thomas was named the Ivy League’s Most Outstanding Track Performer in both 2017 and 2018. While at Harvard, Thomas signed a contract with New Balance and turned pro in October 2018, forgoing her last year of collegiate eligibility.
But Thomas was more than just a top athlete at Harvard. While she was dominating the track, she was also crushing her course work. As a dedicated and determined student, she took a wide range of challenging courses at Harvard, including biology, physics, psychology, sociology, advanced language, and more. During her freshman year, she took a class that changed her life and shaped her time at Harvard. The class focused on the Tuskegee Syphilis study. It gave Thomas a fuller appreciation of the disadvantages facing African Americans in the nation’s health care system. In 2019, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in neurobiology and global policy.
As Thomas took the world stage in Tokyo this year, she remained a proud representative of the Harvard Crimson. She is now the first Harvard women’s track and field alumna to win an Olympic medal. Looking back, Thomas credited her undergraduate years as being critical to her history-making success. “I’ve just had such an amazing experience here,” Thomas said of her Harvard time. “Everything has just gone so well for me, and I am so grateful for every opportunity that I’ve had.”