Tori Bowie, a world champion sprinter and three-time Olympic medalist, died in May from complications of childbirth, according to an autopsy report obtained by USA Today Sports.
The report from the Orange County Medical Examiner Office said Bowie was eight months pregnant and undergoing labor at the time of her death. She had a well-developed fetus, the report said.
She may have suffered from respiratory distress or eclampsia, a rare condition that causes seizures due to high blood pressure during pregnancy. Eclampsia can be fatal for both the mother and the baby.
The manner of death was ruled natural by the medical examiner. It is unclear if her friends or family knew she was pregnant or who was the father of her child.
Bowie’s death came as a shock to the track and field community. The 32-year-old was found dead in her home in Winter Garden, Florida on May 2. Bowie was found when Orange County Sheriff deputies conducted a welfare check at a home after receiving reports a woman in her early 30s “had not been seen or heard from in several days.”
“We’ve lost a client, dear friend, daughter and sister,” Icon Management Inc., the sports agency that represented Bowie, wrote on Twitter. “Tori was a champion…a beacon of light that shined so bright! We’re truly heartbroken and our prayers are with the family and friends.”
Bowie was a track and field star who won gold medals in the women’s 100m and 4x100m relay at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. She also won silver in the 100m, bronze in the 200m and gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I had no idea. All I knew was I wanted to give it everything I’ve got,” Bowie said after winning the women’s 100m at the 2017 World Championships. “Am I really world champion?”
Bowie was born and raised in Mississippi. She played basketball as a girl before her talent on the track became apparent: she won state titles in the 100m, 200m and long jump.
“She was unapologetically her. She was always going to do things her way,” Kimberly Holland, Bowie’s agent who confirmed her cause of death, told CBS News.
“She was one of those athletes that you just knew when she stepped on the track she was going to do something special,” Allyson Felix, Bowie’s teammate and fellow Olympic champion, said.
Bowie’s death also highlighted the difficulties Black women in America face during pregnancy. US-born Black women experience far higher rates of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia than those from other backgrounds.
“Black women die at exceedingly higher rates due to pregnancy-related complications,” BET, a broadcaster that responded to the autopsy, wrote on its Twitter account. “We face a much higher risk of maternal death due to various reasons including chronic stress and implicit bias from health care providers. There is so much work to be done to properly protect and advocate for Black women’s health.”
– Autopsy: U.S. Olympian Tori Bowie died from complications of childbirth, ESPN, 6/12/2023
– US Olympian Tori Bowie died from complications of childbirth, autopsy finds, USA Today, 6/12/2023
– Champion sprinter Tori Bowie died of childbirth complications, per report, CBS News, 6/13/2023
– Olympian Tori Bowie died from complications of childbirth, autopsy report states, KIRO 7 News, 6/13/2023