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BY Mildred Europa Taylor, 10:30am January 04, 2022,

She was a fencer at the Tokyo Olympics, now she’s on track to becoming a surgeon

Kamali Thompson, fencer and Olympic athlete, is becoming a surgeon. Photos: Kamali Thompson/SI

Kamali Thompson is not only a rising star in the sports world but also in medicine. After arriving at the Tokyo Olympics last year as a fencer for Team USA, she is now an orthopedic surgery resident.

She set herself up for success while growing up, as her parents taught her to “try hard”. “My parents asked, ‘How much effort are you putting in? We’re expecting A’s in the classroom. We’re not upset if you don’t get A’s, but we are upset if you don’t try’,” she recalled in an interview with Teen Vogue.

Originally from Teaneck, NJ, Thompson did try hard. A gifted student, she started high school at just 12 years old and began fencing during her freshman year. She eventually became a part of the fencing club as a junior. Thompson started fencing after her coach told her mom that it would be good for her college application to have something different, especially being a Black woman.

Thompson would go on to complete business school and graduate from medical school in 2021. Now, at 30 years old, she is an orthopedic surgery resident, something she always wanted to do.

“I always wanted to be a doctor,” she told Teen Vogue. “I couldn’t wait to see my pediatrician. She was an older Black woman and I wanted to be her because she made me feel great. I want to make other kids feel like that.”

Thompson is optimistic that her fencing, medical career, and MBA will take her places while opening up other opportunities for herself along the way. The fencer and Olympic athlete has so far learned to balance the skills required for her different roles and she has no plans of abandoning any of them.

She hated fencing at first as she thought it was “very weird”. But she later came to love it after realizing that one must embrace being unique. She told Sports Illustrated that being unique helps build a certain level of skills that other people wouldn’t have.

And so for 17 years now, Thompson has been fencing. “Once you really find what you love and what you’re passionate about, just forget what everyone else is saying. Because if you’re doing something different, people are always going to ask you why you’re doing it. They’re going to doubt you, but if you love it and you’re good at it’s just going to take you far. I’m excited that I’m a fencer.”

Thompson has since 2016 been narrating her journey on her blog, Saber & A Stethoscope, to inspire others. She talks about her sport and education, among other activities.

And this is her advice to anyone feeling uncertain of their potential: “Know your self-esteem. You have to find what you’re good at, find what you love. That is going to give you confidence and open many doors for you to make you into the person that you are meant to become.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 4, 2022


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