Florence’s Gabby Thomas will make indoor track season debut at Millrose Games in New York

  • Florence’s Gabby Thomas will make her indoor season debut this Saturday at the 114th Millrose Games in New York City.  AP FILE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/28/2022 3:44:22 PM
Modified: 1/28/2022 3:43:05 PM

Gabby Thomas’ whole life led to the Tokyo Olympics. What was she supposed to do when they ended?

The Florence native who attended Williston Northampton won two medals last summer: a bronze in the 200-meter dash and a silver as part of the USA’s 4x100 relay team. She returned home to Austin, Texas, where she now lives with her pug Rico, with her season not over but feeling down.

“That’s something no one really talks about. People always talk about the Olympics and leading up to it, right after the Olympics was really tough,” Thomas said. “You’re on this high for so long and you’re building up to it and you peak. Then you come back and it’s a crash both emotionally and physically. It’s one of the hardest things. I came back, and it was almost depressing.”

She needed to pull back together for one more meet: the 2021 Prefontaine Classic, a Diamond League meet in Oregon two weeks after the Tokyo Games. Thomas finished second in the 200 then called it a season to rest.

“Having to bring myself to be motivated to train again for this meet which felt not as high of caliber as the Olympics, but I still had to bring my best self to the meet because I made that commitment, it was tough,” she said.

Well, rest as much as Thomas can these days. Her life has been “chaos” since she set, at the time, the second-fastest mark ever in the 200 at the Olympic Trials

“After trials everything got really crazy,” Thomas said. “It was really overwhelming going into the Olympics.”

Things settled during the games because she was largely left alone. The lockdown in Tokyo “wasn’t great” but allowed her to spend more time in the Olympic Village with other Team USA athletes or athletes from other countries. They watched other sports in the lounge, including a lot of table tennis.

“It was as much fun and it was as exciting as I thought it would be. We didn’t have anybody in the stands but they had painted it in such a way where it looked like people were there,” Thomas said. “The emotions were so intense when you get out to the stadium so it’s hard to be aware what’s surrounding me. It was still really fun to compete there.”

After the relative calm of the games, Thomas’ life cranked back into high gear. She started graduate school classes again at the University of Texas in the fall, where she’s pursuing a masters of public health in epidemiology/health care management. Thomas also garnered sponsorships from Super Coffee, Boston wearable tech brand Whoop, Lenovo computers and others. Those required time, travel for photo shoots and social media promotion.

“The intensity of what was required of me after the Olympics was pretty high,” she said. “I think I’m just accepting this is my new normal.”

It’s the normal she wants. She enjoys training and competing. Thomas wants to be in school. She only works with sponsors that she believes in and people she enjoys partnering with.

“Everything is something fun, something that I enjoy,” Thomas said. “You think of it less like work. It’s a lot better.”

Now, after her “break,” she’s preparing to return to competition. Thomas will kick off her indoor season Saturday at the 114th Millrose Games at the Armory in New York. She’ll run the 60 meters at 2:45 p.m. live on NBC against a field featuring fellow Olympians English Gardner, Aleia Hobbs and Briana Williams.

“It’s a really good field. Millrose is, I think, one of the best indoor meets and competitions because it’s everyone’s opening,” Thomas said. “It’ll be fun to be back in the northeast.”

Typically she has run the 300 and 600 indoor but is focusing on the 60 this winter to help bolster her 100 during the outdoor season.

“This year we’re going to focus and hone in on that and work on getting explosive out of the blocks and have some practice doing that then focusing on my gear change,” Thomas said. “Hopefully this year we’ll see more of me in the 100 meters and I can close the gap between my 200 and my 100.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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