Sports

Former Olympic Gold Medalist Gail Devers Almost Walked Away from Her Career Due to an Underlying Condition

The Olympics is the ultimate goal for many track and field athletes. Winning a gold, silver, or bronze medal is more than just the medal itself. The individuals and teams are competing for their countries and want to give it their all.

Gail Devers is a former track and field athlete that competed in the hurdles and sprints. Throughout her career, she overcame a lot and became one of the best women track and field athletes in the country.  

Gail Devers became a star track and field athlete

Born in Seattle, Washington, Devers was talented at a young age. She competed in the 100-meter dash and the 100-meter hurdles. After high school, she attended UCLA and was one of the top athletes on her college team. She had multiple first-place finishes in her events during multiple Pac-10 Championships and the Pan Am Games. During her senior season, she was named the Pac-10 Athlete of the Year after winning the NCAA 100-meter dash and setting an American record in the 100-meter hurdles. Devers was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

She made a name for herself during the 1992 Olympics. In one of the greatest finishes in Olympic history, Devers won the event in a photoshoot finish. Five women finished within 0.06 seconds during the race. Devers went on to win the gold medal again in the 100-meter race during the 1996 Olympics. She also was a member of the 4X100 relay team that won the gold medal during the same Olympics.

Throughout her career, she continued to win gold and silver medals during multiple World Championships and World Indoor Championships. In 2011 she was elected into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. A year later, she was elected into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. Devers career could have ended early due to an underlying condition.

Gail Devers overcame a disease that could have ended her career

After college, Devers started preparing for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. While she was preparing, she noticed that she was getting tired really fast, and she also experienced weight loss. She ended up competing in the 1988 Olympics, and her condition got worse. In an article from empoweryourhealth.org, Devers talked about how she could not figure out what was going on. “I went to several doctors, and none of them could tell me what was wrong,” Devers said in the article. “At some point it stopped being about competing, and it started being about getting my life back.”

A few years after she started having problems, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. The disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. Her immune system was producing more thyroid hormone than normal. Devers received a radioiodine treatment, which slowed down her thyroid. While she received treatment, she started to develop blistering and swelling of her feet. It was so bad that she could barely walk, and at times she had to be carried. One doctor considered having her feet amputated. But Devers recovered from her treatment and went on to have a lot of success.

Gail Devers knows what it takes to battle hurdles

Devers jumped over hurdles during her race, but she was able to jump over hurdles that life threw at her. She could have walked away from competing when she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. One thing that Devers was known for was her long and decorated fingernails. Her nails were so long that she had to alter her starting position to accommodate her fingernails. The reason why she grew out her nails was because of her disease. “I grow my fingernails for three years, because that’s how long I went undiagnosed,” she said. “Every three years I cut them and start growing them again.”

Now that she’s done competing, she has a passion for making sure that people understand the signs and symptoms of thyroid disease and that they have a good understanding of the proper treatment. She continued to get her thyroid hormone levels checked and does everything she can to make sure she stays healthy. Her story of overcoming what she went through will continue to impact many people.