25-year-old Tori Bowie is the woman to beat at this year’s Olympic Games. The former Southern Miss athlete is considered the favorite in the women’s 100m and 200m dashes, and tonight, she will be competing in the semifinals for the women’s 100m race. Bowie, who now lives in Clermont, Florida, has the fastest times in the US this year for the 100m (10.8) and 200m (21.99) races, though she stands second to two international competitors– the Ivory Coasts’s Murielle Ahoure (who holds a 10.78 in the 100m), and Dafne Schippers (who holds a 21.93 in the 200m) of the Netherlands.
Read on to learn more about Tori Bowie.
1. She Spent Time in Foster Care as a Child
Bowie attended Pisgah High School, where she won two state championships in the 100m dash and 200m dash, and three state titles in the 4x100m relay. She also played on the women’s state basketball team. Bowie may have found success in athletics in high school and college, but the track star’s path to the Olympics wasn’t always so clear cut. The Sun Herald writes, “If Bowie clinches a spot in the Olympics as expected, she will carry with her one of the more remarkable stories of perseverance among the athletes traveling to Rio.” Bowie spent time in foster care as an infant. She was taken in by her grandmother, who she is still close with today. According to Sun Herald, Bowie’s track coach at USM, Kevin Stephen, cites her humble beginnings as her motivation to become the “hard-nosed athlete” she is today. Stephen told the news outlet, “She’s very tough. She’s not had the easiest life. It would have been easy for her to whine and complain, but she used her circumstances to her benefit.”
Though Bowie was raised by her now 69-year-old grandmother, her biological father is still somewhat a part of her life. Bowie told Sports Illustrated that she and her dad are now “at a point where [they] actually have a relationship.”
2. She Won the Bronze Medal at the 2015 IAAF Championships
In 2015, Bowie won the bronze medal at the 2015 IAAF Championships in Beijing in the 100 meters, and this summer, she’s the US’s best chance at the gold for the 100 and 200m sprints. After her Beijing win, Bowie said, “I was thankful, but not content. I had to just be patient and confident this entire year. I had to be confident knowing that I’m going for gold this year. Right now, I feel like everyone is looking to beat Tori Bowie. That makes me do everything I can to get better.”
After graduating from USM, Bowie decided to focus on her track career. ““It took for me to get serious for the world to see my potential,” Bowie said. “I was living a certain lifestyle in Mississippi that wasn’t healthy. I was making a lot of bad decisions. I couldn’t stay away from trouble. I felt it was time for me to try something different. I knew I was talented.”
3. She’s Primarily a Long Jumper
Bowie gained recognition in college for her impressive long jump. At USM, she was a two-time NCAA champion, and won both indoor and outdoor titles. Stephen told the Sun Herald, “In college, the long jump was her forte. But she’s always had very good speed. She started running the 100 in college and had good times for a college athlete, but she’s on a different level now.”
When she attended the the Olympic Training Center in Chula, California, she wanted to compete in sprinting, but her coaches advised against it. Sports Illustrated writes, “… [Bowie] says coaches at the training center discouraged her from sprinting, but she tried nonetheless”. At Southern Mississippi, Bowie had run twelve 100s, but hadn’t finished any in faster than 11.30 seconds, which, according so Sports Illustrated, “… is not a world-class time.” These days, however, she’s recording some of the fastest times in the world. She may have left college as a long jumper, but she’s the sprinter to beat these days.
4. She Competed for the University of Southern Mississippi
Bowie attended the University of Southern Mississippi on an athletic scholarship for an “interdisciplinary degree”. Her sophomore year, she set a record with a long jump of 6.23m. Bowie then qualified for the NCAA competition with a 6.43m jump. She climbed to the top of the rankings throughout her collegiate career, and began her senior year in college with a triple jump win at the Conference USA Indoor Championships, where she set a personal record of 13.09m.
Raised in the small, rural town of Sand Hill, Mississippi, Bowie and her roughly 20 family members lived in four houses set in the rural countryside. When discussing her childhood and family life, Bowie told Sports Illustrated, “My family is so weird… I went where the boys in the family went. We would shoot basketball, we would shoot guns, we’d play cards, we’d go fishing at the pond. I enjoy where I’m from. That’s me. And my family never let me get far away.’’
5. She Graduated with a Psychology Degree
Bowie attended the University of Southern Mississippi on an Interdisciplinary Studies scholarship, and chose to study Psychology and Social Work. Her achievements in track over the past few years have turned quite a profit– on May 6, Bowie wore the Adidas logo while running the 100m in the Doha Diamond. Her manager, Kimberly Holland, scored the sponsorship with what she told Sports Illustrated were “some very aggressive incentives.”
According to the Sun Herald, Bowie won’t be pleased unless she wins the gold in the 100 and 200m races in the coming days. “I want to come home with gold. I won’t just lay down for anyone to take it.” She will be competing in the 100m semifinals Saturday evening.