Untangling Exactly What Happened to Pregnant Olympian Tori Bowie

Olympic gold medalist Tori Bowie was found dead in her bed in Florida last month, along with her stillborn infant. Since then, new details have come to light about the 32-year-old's tragic passing.

By Lindsay Weinberg Jun 17, 2023 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Olympian Tori Bowie Tragedy: New Details Emerge

Excited to become a mom, Tori Bowie was ready to hit the ground running. 

Just two weeks before her sudden death at age 32, the pregnant Olympian had spoken with her inner circle about her parenting plans. Her agent Kimberly Holland shared that Bowie was "looking forward to this new chapter in her life" and was buying clothes for the baby. 

"I thought that conversation, overall, was a conversation of new beginnings," the agent told NBC News June 14. "I think that that would have been one of the most luckiest babies ever, because she had so much love to give."

Instead, the eight-months pregnant athlete was found dead in her Florida bedroom May 2. At the time, Bowie was undergoing labor and had signs of "crowning," according to an autopsy report obtained by E! News June 13. 

A medical examiner attributed the three-time Olympic medalist's cause of death to complications of childbirth, noting it was possible she'd suffered from eclampsia—rare, but serious seizures that can result from preeclampsia—as well as respiratory distress.

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As for her baby girl, she was stillborn. The infant's cause of death was listed in her autopsy as "intrauterine fetal demise due to maternal condition," meaning she died in the uterus.

Although the autopsies don't note when Bowie died, she was discovered when Orange County Sheriff's Office deputies stopped by to perform a welfare check because she had "not been seen or heard from in several days," an agency spokesperson told NBC News May 3. 

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While the sports community seeks more answers on her death, the loss has been felt deeply among her fellow Olympians, including teammates Tianna Madison and Allyson Felix, who spoke out to share their own harrowing experiences with childbirth and note that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.

"It's heartbreaking," Allyson, 37, wrote on Instagram. "We continue to face a maternity mortality crisis in this country. Black women are at risk. It's why I won't stop doing this work. We can't sit by and continue to watch our loved ones die when many of these complications are preventable."

Here is everything that's known about the tragic deaths of Bowie and her baby girl.

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Who was Tori Bowie?

Frentorish "Tori" Bowie was an Olympic gold medalist, who competed for Team USA at the Rio Olympics in 2016. The track and field star won gold in the 4x100 meter relay alongside teammates Tianna Madison (previously Bartoletta), Allyson Felix and English Gardner, and she also took home silver in the 100-meter and bronze in the 200-meter.

Born in Sandhill, Miss., the athlete was put into foster care at age 2 along with her older sister Tamarra, she told Women's Running. Her life changed in a "major way" when grandmother Bobbie Smith became their guardian and passed on important life lessons to the girls.

"My grandmother told me a long time, ago I don't care if you're sweeping a porch for a living. She said, you need to do your best. So I've lived by that every single day," Bowie told NBC News' WLBT3 in 2016. "It's not about where you're from... It's just about where we're trying to go and what we're trying to accomplish. And I'm trying to be that person, to show everyone there that it is possible."

After attending Pisgah High School, she went on to study at the University of Southern Mississippi from 2009 to 2012, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, per the Team USA website. While in college, Bowie collected national titles in both the indoor and outdoor championships and was later inducted into the Southern Miss M-Club Hall of Fame for her talents.

Once the fastest woman in the world, she won three medals at two World Championships.

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How was Tori Bowie's body found?

Orange County Sheriff's Office deputies went to Bowie's Florida residence May 2 to conduct a welfare check because she had "not been seen or heard from in several days," a spokesperson for the office told NBC News May 3. Authorities discovered Bowie's body in her bed, per her autopsy. She was 96 pounds at the time of her death.

How did Tori Bowie die while pregnant?

The runner was eight months pregnant at the time of her passing and was undergoing labor, with her autopsy noting she was "crowning."

What is Tori Bowie's official cause of death?

Bowie died due to complications of childbirth, according to her autopsy. The matter of death was natural. The Orlando, Fla. medical examiner stated she faced "possible complications," including respiratory distress or eclampsia, but only listed bipolar disorder under her medical history. Her toxicology results were negative.

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What is eclampsia?

Eclampsia is seizures or convulsions during pregnancy that can lead to stroke or death in some cases, per the Cleveland Clinic. It is a rare, but very serious, complication of the pregnancy disorder preeclampsia, affecting only three percent of those diagnosed with the condition.

Characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, "preeclampsia puts stress on your heart and other organs and can cause serious complications," reads the Cleveland Clinic website. "It can also affect the blood supply to your placenta, impair liver and kidney function or cause fluid to build up in your lungs."

Watch: Olympic Gold Medalist Tori Bowie's Cause of Death Revealed

What happened to Tori Bowie's baby girl?

Bowie's daughter was described as a stillborn infant in an autopsy obtained by E! News June 14. The reports also noted Bowie had a "well-developed fetus" in her uterus, measuring 16 inches and 1.8 ounces, adding, "There are no traumatic injuries." 

How did Tori Bowie's baby die?

The baby's cause of death is listed as "intrauterine fetal demise due to maternal condition," meaning she died in the uterus.

Did Tori Bowie have a boyfriend, husband or partner?

It is unknown if Bowie was dating anyone at the time of her death.

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What is Tori Bowie's legacy?

In addition to being an accomplished sprinter, Bowie was also an Adidas model and described herself as someone who put "God & Family First." 

In the eyes of her sister, Bowie was "exceptionally beautiful, loving, caring, gifted, but most importantly understanding and full of wisdom," Tamarra Bowie wrote on social media for her birthday in 2015.

She left behind a legacy of light for those she knew. "We're devastated to share the very sad news that Tori Bowie has passed away," her management team wrote on Instagram 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, friends and everyone that loved her."

In her last Instagram post, shared in 2019, Bowie offered hope to all the young athletes wanting to follow in her footsteps. "To everyone chasing their dreams out there keep the courage and determination!" she urged. "I know I will."

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