Champion Olympian Tori Bowie, 32, Died in Childbirth, Autopsy Confirms
American Olympic gold medalist Tori Bowie, 32, died while giving birth to what would have been her firstborn child, according to a newly released autopsy report. The tragic news of her premature death highlights the United States' unprecedented maternal mortality crisis, which disproportionately affects Black women.
The latest maternal mortality report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a steady rise in the number of deaths of pregnant women in recent years.
"In 2021, 1,205 women died of maternal causes in the United States compared with 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019," the CDC's report states. "The maternal mortality rate for 2021 was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with a rate of 23.8 in 2020 and 20.1 in 2019."
On May 2, Orange County (Florida) Sheriff's Office deputies found a deceased woman in the 5400 block of Bowman Drive, later identified as Frentorish "Tori" Bowie. Medical examiners estimated she was eight months pregnant at the time of her death, the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday.
The Sheriff's Office confirmed to Giddy Thursday that Bowie had not been "seen or heard from in several days" at the time of the welfare check.
"There were no signs of foul play," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement to Giddy.
Bowie's baby, a girl, was born stillborn, according to a CBS News report. An obituary for Bowie listed the 32-year-old's date of death as April 23, 2023.
Cause of death
The Orlando-based medical examiner's report confirmed Bowie was found in bed inside a "secured residence," the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalist most likely died from respiratory distress and eclampsia during childbirth, according to the report. Cleveland Clinic defines eclampsia as the seizures a pregnant woman experiences as a result of preeclampsia.
Bowie's autopsy noted the star Olympic athlete was "undergoing labor (crowning)" when she died from childbirth complications, NBC News reported Tuesday.
Agent Kimberly Holland, who represented the athlete, told CBS News Wednesday that Bowie was "not actively performing a home birth, but she did not want to deliver in a hospital."
'Beacon of light'
News of Bowie's death due to complications of childbirth shocked members of the track and field community nationwide.
"We're devastated to share the very sad news that Tori Bowie has passed away. We've lost a client, dear friend, daughter and sister," Icon Management Inc. tweeted on May 3. "Tori was a champion…a beacon of light that shined so bright! We're truly heartbroken and our prayers are with the family and friends."
Originally from the small town of Sand Hills, Mississippi, Bowie rose to prominence on her high school track team before ultimately securing a scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi, where she continued her athletic pursuits.
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Bowie took home bronze, silver and gold medals in various track and field competitions. In 2017, the track and field athlete claimed another gold medal in the 100-meter race at the World Athletics Championships in London—the last medal she won before an injury sidelined her in 2018.