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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Track star Tori Bowie died in childbirth

Tori Bowie, a three-time Olympic medalist, died at age 32.

By Talya Minsberg

Track star Tori Bowie was eight months pregnant and in labor at the time of her death, according to an autopsy report shared with The New York Times. The autopsy lists respiratory distress and eclampsia as possible complications.

Frentorish Bowie, or Tori for short, a sprinter who competed at the Rio Olympics and won a silver medal in the 100 meters, a bronze in the 200 meters, and a gold in the 4x100-meter relay, died at 32. It was days before she was found.

Her death was confirmed by USA Track & Field on May 3. No cause of death or exact date of death was known. There were no signs of foul play

Preeclampsia, a dangerous condition characterized by high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, can turn into eclampsia, a rare and severe complication characterized by seizures and the onset of a coma.

Many studies have shown a greater risk of preeclampsia among Black women in the United States. One of Bowie’s Olympic teammates, Allyson Felix, underwent an emergency C-section because of severe preeclampsia.

Background: She was discovered by deputies.

Sheriff’s deputies in Orange County, Florida, conducted a wellness check on Bowie on May 2 after she had not been seen or heard from in several days.

Officials at the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office cautioned that her official cause of death could be pending for up to three months because of toxicology tests.

Her pregnancy had been confirmed at her funeral service on May 13. A program provided at the service near her hometown Sandhill, Mississippi, said Bowie was preceded in death by a daughter, Ariana Bowie.

The same day, an official at the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed a “baby Bowie” but declined to provide further information.

Track and field career: She was the world’s fastest woman.

Bowie’s ascension to the fastest woman in the world began on a basketball court in Sandhill.

Pisgah High School was too small to field separate basketball and track teams, so if Bowie wanted to play basketball, she would have to run track, too. She went on to help her track team win state titles, competing in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 4x100-meter relay and long jump.

When she was recruited by the University of Southern Mississippi, she said she would compete in track and field if she could try to make the women’s basketball team as a walk-on. She ended up sticking with track.

When she turned pro in 2013, her greatest potential seemed to be in the long jump. But she quickly transitioned to sprinting, and her career blossomed. Bowie became a three-time Olympic medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics before earning the title of fastest woman in the world with a win in the 100 meters at the world championships a year later.

She was generous with her success, her friend Antoine Preudhomme said, and would visit foster homes across Florida and Mississippi three to four times a year to deliver gifts and spend time with the children.

Her final years: She turned inward.

In the past few years, Bowie, who was always private, turned more inward and lost touch with many of the coaches who were part of her journey to the top of the sport.

“She even backed away from me,” her longtime agent, Kimberly N. Holland, said the day of the funeral. “But she always found her way back because of the bond we had.”

She had been excited about the pregnancy, Holland said. The two talked on the phone a few weeks before she died.

“It was one of the best conversations we’ve had in a long time,” Holland said over the phone Monday. “We just giggled like schoolgirls. We laughed so hard my stomach was hurting.”

Bowie agreed to go to Atlanta so Holland could help raise the baby. They were both so excited, Holland said, “just hearing the joy.” It was the last time they spoke.

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