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'You Did It Your Way': As Gabby Thomas Wins Bronze, Her Mom Nervously Watches From Western Mass.

Gabby Thomas, a 24-year-old Harvard grad from Florence, Massachusetts, won the Olympic bronze medal Tuesday in the women's 200-meters.

Her mom, Jennifer Randall, watched the race from home.

Randall's nerves are pretty tied up before Thomas is in a big race. She just tries to focus on daily life.

“I followed my same routine [on Tuesday]: my early morning writing, my morning run, strength training,” said Randall, a UMass professor who now lives in Amherst. “Rushed in and got ready for the day just with enough time to sit down and watch Gabby run."

COVID-19 restrictions at the Olympics have made in-person watching off-limits, but Randall said she always watches the major competitions alone, and in silence.

And this one was amazing, she said, but the broadcast didn't help settle her nerves.

"I watched online where they were streaming it, and when she — when they — crossed the line, they literally, immediately, went to pole vaulting [on the broadcast],” she said. “For the life of me, I don't know what that was about. So it actually took a little while for me to see that she actually won the medal."

Gabby Thomas, at left, with her mom, Jennifer Randall, in December 2018.
Credit Courtesy Gabby Thomas / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
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Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
Gabby Thomas, at left, with her mom, Jennifer Randall, in December 2018.

But when she did, relief.

“When they showed [Thomas’] smile at the end, when she had the American flag, that was just, I don't know. It was everything,” Randall said. “It was just amazing to see that joy across her face, and for all that hard work to actually come to fruition.”

And afterwards, she texted Thomas.

"'That smile. Always that damn smile,'" Randall said she texted. "'My kingdom come. My kingdom to see it on your face. I'm so happy for you, baby girl. You did it, and you did it your way. Your beautiful, perfect, brilliant way. Mommy loves you.'"

Thomas responded with many hearts, and a note — in caps — that she fought for that one.

Thomas went to middle and high school at the Williston Northampton School. Though students are not in classes yet, the school held a watch party in the campus center Tuesday morning.

“We had various faculty go out afterwards and ring our victory bell,” said spokesperson Ann Hallock, “and paint the lion on our quad bronze with spray paint.”

Thomas was actually considered a favorite for the gold after finishing the Olympic trials with a time better than anyone in the world — ever — besides Florence Griffith-Joyner.

But Randall said there's no disappointment in bronze.

"You know, that's a statistic – that time, right?” Randall said. “She has a medal now, and that's the thing that matters."

Thomas might have a shot at another medal. She's in the pool of U.S. runners who could compete in the 100-meter relay.

Sam has overseen local news coverage on New England Public Media since 2013. He oversees a team of about a dozen full- and part-time reporters and hosts.
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