Phenomenal Female Athlete
When a champion athlete suddenly passes away it is a tragedy, but especially so when Tori Bowie was found deceased in her Florida home in May, 2023. Although her life was short, her athletic competition career brought her new records, as well as Olympic honors.
Frentorish (Tori) Bowie was born in August, 1990 in Sand Hill, Rankin County, Mississippi where she attended the local high school and began a life of athletic competition. Demonstrating early a lifelong skill and passion in athletics she won state level championships in track and field and also in women’s basketball where she played on the state level team.
After receiving athletic scholarships to the University of Southern Mississippi, Tori continued her winning participation in athletics. (She was later to graduate with a degree in psychology and social work). During her freshman year she achieved success in the long jump, coming in third place at the Conference USA indoors, second at the outdoors events and then third again in indoors events. She also reached the NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship “where she jumped in qualifying only,” according to one source.
For her sophomore year Tori continued to excel, as she set new records in the long jump in one event, and later coming in third in the long jump in another event. She also competed at the 2010 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, placing eighth. Her third year of 2011 Bowie achieved two collegiate national titles, competing at various times, in the long jump and the triple jump. For these and other accomplishments she was listed as conference female athlete of the year.
Her senior year at the University of Southern Mississippi she continued to win honors in the triple jump and in the long jump at various events.
After her many collegiate achievements Bowie began to compete professionally in track and field events in 2013. That year she narrowly missed being on the long jump team for the 2013 World Championships. Then she continued to improve the next year, when she greatly developed her times for long jumps, and just missed a spot for world level competition.
By June 2014 she had achieved two new personal records, in the 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash events at a competition, and also increased her times for 100 meter race. A year later in the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she earned a spot on the women’s 100 meter heats, with the 2015 World Championships in Athletics and went on to earn a bronze medal. In 2016 she took third position with her time in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
In 2016 at the Olympic Games in Brazil, Bowie won a silver medal in the 100 meter dash, then a bronze medal in the 200 meter dash. As a member of the relay team she added a gold medal to her achievements.
She also earned a gold medal in 2017 in London at the World Athletics Championships. In 2019, at an invitational meet at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, she won another gold medal in a jump competition. However, the tragedy began when in May, 2023 after a welfare check by local officials Bowie was found deceased in her Florida home.
As her death was reported to the international media one of the tributes came in an article by Andrew Lawrence in The Guardian—a UK publication. The article was accompanied by a photo of Bowie and her teammates, from the 2016 Olympics, as they reminisced about their recently deceased friend. He described the final events of the Games: “She flexed serious power with those washboard abs and flashed pops of color with her fuchsia headband.” He explained that her headgear was similar to the “bonnet” that Black women used to secure their hair at home as teammates described how her head wear device was in this case worn not at home but on an international stage. Teammate English Gardner described that this was typical of Bowie, “never what the world asked for, always unapologetically her.”
Bowie served as an inspiration to other dark skinned female athletes on the world scene. “Girls in Ghana could see themselves in her. So too could teens from her native Mississippi.” Lawrence wrote.
He continued, describing how emotionally anguishing was her sudden death, as he discussed Bowie’s life and origins. “Here was a 32-year-old woman who had already done so much: won state titles shortly after joining track in her teens, broke national collegiate records…She made a living competing in a sport she loved at the highest level—not bad for a girl from Sand Hill, a bent stop-sign town smack in the middle of the poorest state in the union.”
“She was 100% small-town Mississippi and proud of it,” said Tori’s longtime coach, Lance Brauman, “She had no problem telling everyone in the world that’s where she’s from.” Calling her talented and a quick study, he continued: “…it was no wonder she enjoyed success while still so young and green.” He added, “None of it took her by surprise. She thought she should be there.”
Anne Adams is a retired church staffer. She lives in East Texas and has an historical column for a local newspaper. She has published in Christian and secular publications for more than 40 years.