Yolanda Gail Devers (born November 19, 1966) is a retired three-time Olympic champion in track and field for the US Olympic Team. Devers was born in Seattle, Washington, and grew up near National City, California and graduated from Sweetwater High School in 1984. Sweetwater's football and track stadium is named Gail Devers Stadium.
A young talent in the 100 m and 100 m hurdles, Devers was in training for the 1988 Summer Olympics, started experiencing health problems, suffering from among others migraine and vision loss. She qualified for the Olympics 100 m hurdles, in which she was eliminated in the semi-finals, but her health continued to deteriorate even further.
In 1990, she was diagnosed with Graves' disease, and underwent radioactive iodine treatment followed by thyroid hormone replacement therapy. During her radiation treatment, Devers began to develop blistering and swelling of her feet. Eventually, the sprinter could barely walk and had to crawl and or be carried. A doctor considered amputating her feet. Amazingly, Devers recovered after the radiation treatment was discontinued, and she resumed training. At the 1991 World Championships, she won a silver medal in the 100 m hurdles.
At the 1992 Summer Olympics, Devers starred. She qualified for the final of the 100 m, which ended in an exciting finish, with five women finishing close (within 0.06 seconds). The photo finish showed Devers had narrowly beaten Jamaican Juliet Cuthbert. In the final of the 100 m hurdles, Devers' lead event, she seemed to be running towards a second gold medal, when she hit the final hurdle and stumbled over the finish line in fifth place, leaving Voula Patoulidou from Greece as the upset winner. See the race
In 1993, Devers won the 100 m World Championship title after - again - a photo finish win over Merlene Ottey in an apparent dead heat, and the 100 m hurdles title. She retained her hurdles title in 1995.
The 100 m final at the 1996 Summer Olympics was an almost exact repeat of the World Championships final three years before. Ottey and Devers again finished in the same time and did not know who had won the race. Again, both were awarded the same time, but Devers was judged to have finished first and became the first woman to retain the Olympic 100 m title since Wyomia Tyus. In the final of her favorite event, Devers again failed, as she finished fourth and outside of the medals. With the 4 x 100 m relay team, Devers won her third Olympic medal.
After these Olympics, Devers concentrated on the hurdles event, winning the World Championship again in 1999, but she had to forfeit for the semi-finals at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Devers left competition in 2005 to give birth to a child with her husband and returned in 2006.
On February 2, 2007, at the age of 40, Devers edged 2004 Olympic champion Joanna Hayes to win the 60 m hurdles event at the Millrose Games in 7.86 seconds - the best time in the world that season and just 0.12 off the record she set in 2003. Furthermore, the time bettered the listed World Record for a 40 year old by almost 7 tenths of a second.
During her career, Devers was notable for having exceptionally long, heavily decorated fingernails. One of the fastest starters in the world, Devers even had to alter her starting position to accommodate her long nails. Her long nails came as the result of a contest her father devised to get her to stop biting her nails as a child.
In 2011, she was elected into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. The following year she was elected into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
Read more about Gail Devers: Audio Interview