By Saifa Khan
It’s Women’s History Month, which means not only celebrating the women who have made strides in history, but also celebrating the women who continue doing big things today!
Kamali Thompson is one such woman: a 28-year-old training as a professional fencer to make Team USA at the 2020 Summer Olympics while studying to become an orthopedic surgeon.
As a young girl, she was a hard worker and excelled in school. She started high school at just 12 years old, and she found some difficulty fitting in. In some attempt to find a community, her mother encouraged her to join the dancing and fencing clubs at school.
Fencing wasn’t always a sport she was interested in, though. It took watching a bout in the eighth grade and that little push from her mother at the start of high school to get her to join the team. She also joined the Peter Westbrook Foundation at 14 years old, which is a non-profit organization that aims to bring in children from minority backgrounds into the sport of fencing. She continued her fencing journey beyond high school, joining the team at Temple University when she matriculated.
Now, Thompson is a professional fencer, having traveled to 22 different countries to compete in international tournaments. After missing the cutoff for Team USA by two rankings back in 2016, she’s been training harder than ever to make it for this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Team USA is determined ultimately by 12 competitions: 8 World Cups and 4 National Cups. After the completion of these Cups, the top 4 fencers (4 for the women’s team and 4 for the men’s team) in each of the 3 types of fencing (saber, épée, and foil) are the ones who get to compete at the Olympics for Team USA.
Being a professional fencer alone sounds as time-consuming, but Thompson is also one year away from finishing her medical degree to become an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon. She spent 3 years at Rutgers Medical School and 1 year at Rutgers Business School, and she completed 2 years of research in the sports medicine division of the NYU Department of Orthopedic Surgery, where her work was published in a medical journal. In the middle of this pursuit, she also took a year off to train for the 2016 Olympics.
On March 8, USA Fencing announced that Kamali Thompson was among those who qualified for the women’s saber team on their social media platforms. However, due to the current coronavirus pandemic, the IOC has officially postponed the Tokyo Olympics to take place in July 2021. Hopefully we’ll see her compete next year while still staying safe and healthy!
At just 28 years old, Kamali Thompson has achieved so much with her persistence and determination. You can follow her personal and professional journey through her blog Saber & A Stethoscope or through her Instagram!