Preparing to take on the reigning figure skating champion, East Germany’s Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas could be excused for letting her nerves get to her. But, as TIME’s cover story noted, the pressure was more than just superficial sporting prowess:
“In a sport so subjective and judgmental, not to mention whiter than several shades of snow blindness, a black child might be excused for factoring racism into indecipherable marks.”
Witt and Thomas were due to enter the “Battle of the Carmens,” skating to the tune of the same Bizet opera. In the end, America’s sweetheart Thomas claimed the bronze medal, while Witt took gold. Canada’s Elizabeth Manley earned silver.