Gabby Thomas Ready to Run in Paris After Speed Season in Texas

Gabby Thomas is only the third-fastest American woman of all time in the 200 meters and the fourth-fastest in history, but those numbers don't tell the whole story. The 27-year-old sprinter has been busy working on a master's degree in public health and epidemiology and tackling health disparities in her community. After graduating from Harvard University in 2019, Thomas was drawn to Tonja Buford-Bailey's professional squad in Austin, Texas. Buford-Bailey, a former University of Texas coach and retired track superstar who earned a bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1996 Olympics, has assembled a group of Black women athletes that includes Thomas and 60-meter hurdles world record-holder Tia Jones. "It was something so special about being in a group of Black women and having a Black coach because I could really see myself in their shoes," Thomas says. "I felt like I could do what they were doing." Thomas joined the group in 2019 and has thrived under Buford-Bailey's leadership.

In the last five years, the group has shifted with new members coming in and others moving on. Today, the squad includes 60-meter hurdles world record-holder Tia Jones and Olympic 100-meter hurdler Christina Clemons, among other standouts. Thomas has also improved off the track. Today, she holds the fourth-fastest time in history over 200 meters. She's also the second-fastest American ever behind world record-holder Florence Griffith-Joyner. Now, Thomas is a veteran member of the group and embraces her new role as a mentor, emphasizing a supportive culture within the team. In addition to training, Thomas spends five to six hours a week working at the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic in Austin. Utilizing her master's degree in public health and epidemiology from the University of Texas, Thomas leads the clinic's hypertension intervention program, assisting patients who don't have access to healthcare.

Thomas' work in public health also aligns with her new Eli Lilly and Company partnership. The prescription medicine and health equity partner of Team USA is sponsoring seven athletes, including Thomas, who are dedicated to improving health outcomes in their communities. After claiming a surprise bronze in the 200 meters in Tokyo in 2021, Thomas has learned a lot from more championship experience and navigating setbacks. In 2022, a devastating hamstring injury derailed her season. In the 200-meter final at the USATF Outdoor Championships, she faded to eighth and didn't make the U.S. team that competed on home soil at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene. Last year, she returned healthy aiming for redemption at the World Championships in Budapest. A few weeks after breaking her own meet record while winning the U.S. 200-meter title in 21.60, she took home silver at Worlds behind two-time world champion Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, who ran the second-fastest time in history.

As Thomas learned, the pressures of competing on the world stage can come with many distractions. At her lowest points, she felt overwhelmed and lost focus on what mattered most. But through it all, Thomas realized the importance of managing her time and prioritizing her mental health. In 2024, she's made lifestyle changes--including daily meditation sessions and her work at the healthcare clinic--that make her feel balanced. "This year, I have a really level head going into [the season] and a healthy mindset about it," Thomas says. "I feel like I can focus on doing what I need to do on the track and off the track to make sure I'm healthy, fit, and in gold medal shape for the Paris Olympics." Taylor Dutch is a writer and editor living in Austin, Texas, and a former NCAA track athlete who specializes in fitness, wellness, and endurance sports coverage. Her work has appeared in Runner's World, SELF, Bicycling, Outside, and Podium Runner.

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