An autopsy report obtained by USA Today Sports has revealed that Tori Bowie, the former Olympic and world champion sprinter, passed away in her home in Orlando, Florida, due to complications arising from childbirth.
The 32-year-old athlete was discovered deceased after the local sheriff’s department conducted a well-being check. She had been unaccounted for and out of contact for several days. The exact cause of her death was not initially disclosed. According to her online obituary, Bowie had previously lost a daughter named Ariana.
According to the report from Orange County Medical Examiner Office, Bowie was eight months pregnant and in the process of giving birth when she died. It is unclear if friends or family knew she was pregnant.
The report says possible causes of death included respiratory distress and eclampsia. Eclampsia is a rare complication of pre-eclampsia and can cause seizures and strokes.
Broadcaster BET responded to the autopsy by highlighting the difficulties Black women in America face during pregnancy. US-born Black women experience far higher rates of pre-eclampsia than those from other backgrounds.
Higher Death rates
“Black women die at exceedingly higher rates due to pregnancy-related complications,” BET 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.”
Bowie won three gold medals on the global stage for the US. Her first came as part of the USA 4x100m relay team at the 2016 Olympics. 2017 was even more successful: she added another relay gold at the World Athletics Championships in London and won individual gold in the 100m, beating Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josée Ta Lou in a photo finish.
“I had no idea. All I knew was I wanted to give it everything I’ve got,” Bowie said after her victory. “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.
“I remember just racing everywhere as a child, like in the trees, wherever … I raced all the time,” she told the Guardian in 2017.
She won two other Olympics medals: a silver and bronze in the 100m and 200m respectively in Rio in 2016. According to her obituary she had been studying music at Full Sail University prior to her death, and had also worked with underpriviliged children.
“I wish you could feel how much respect I have for Tori Bowie,” her USA teammate, English Gardner, told the media after Bowie’s death. “I wish you could feel how amazing of a competitor she was.”