Skip to Main Content

Getting Back on Track: Lessons on Resilience and Perseverance

Gail Devers

Gail Devers is not a stranger to a challenge. The five-time Olympian, nine-time World Champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field was one of the fastest women alive for almost two decades. 

But the hurdles she faced off the track, battling Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) and Graves’ Disease, were just as daunting as those she faced on. 

As we celebrate Women’s Health Week, take some time to listen to this harrowing story of resilience and perseverance. Devers pushed forward to find answers and allies — while combating the lack of control she had over the competitive diseases racing through her body.

This episode is sponsored by Horizon Therapeutics.

Gail Devers

Gail Devers

Gail Devers is a five-time Olympian, nine-time World Champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field who was one of the fastest women alive for almost two decades. Amid this unprecedented feat, Gail has also been living with Graves’ disease and symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) for more than 30 years.

After a harrowing two-and-a-half-year quest for answers about her health, Gail was diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 1990, just two years before winning her first Olympic gold medal. Her journey back to the track was nothing short of spectacular, especially after overcoming near career-ending symptoms, including extreme weight loss, fatigue, and insomnia. Gail also experienced symptoms of TED including eye pain, dryness, irritation and bulging eyes.

In a decorated 25-year track career that followed, Gail has been recognized as an American sporting icon. By winning back-to-back 100m Olympic gold medals, and three World Championships in 100m hurdles, Gail cemented herself as one of the most dominant female sprinters of our time. She has since been inducted into both the National Track and Field and the United States Olympic Halls of Fame.

Today, Gail enjoys volunteering and giving back to the community through organizations that include The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Atlanta Track Club. She also coaches hurdles for her daughter’s high school track team, mentors world-class athletes, and loves spending time with her family, two dogs and their rabbit.

Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee

Additional Resources

  • To learn more about Thyroid Eye Disease and to find a TED Eye Specialist near you, visit
  • Learn more about Gail’s athletic accomplishments at

Get help navigating your personal and professional life from the nation's largest network of conferences for women in the workplace

No thanks, I don't want to learn