The 2016 WHGF Gala Showcase

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This year’s gala really blew me away! For some reason I am very emotional. First, it was really, really wonderful.

The students, parents, staff, volunteers, HCZ Staff and guests all made for a truly amazing celebration of community gymnastics.

This was the first Gala held at the HCZ Armory. This facility is so spectacular. We have now done so many events together that the HCZ Staff, led by Darryl Boston and Kiana Terry so contributed to the success of the event.

My staff –oh, the WHGF Staff — you guys were on fire! I always drive them crazy- but they always come through.

Nikki Mills, the WHGF Gymnastics Supervisor, had the brunt of all of the last-minute craziness. Handling so much coming at her left and right- and Nikki loves structure and planning things in advance- so whoa- this event always is on that other side- but she keeps us together.

Halema came in and took care of business in her quiet way and she always does, and Osei (who never likes to be mentioned) did the same – not so quiet – but taking care of what was needed. We had our volunteers on hand to make this event run.

Head Volunteers Dorita and Melissa always just know what to do- along with Christine who always knows where to be. And Larry, our head of security – (with so any parents you need security) and to all who came in to help out–thank you so much!

Thanks to Jedia and Deloris – Team members and Junior Instructors – for doing such a great job with the music today.

Now to my gymnastics teachers and coaches—I salute you indeed. We had so many kids and so much going on. Rehearsal, march out, team performances.When the students marched out I was taken aback at how many were in this year’s show- I mean they kept on coming!

Tamika- Thank you so much for your organization and super positive energy. I was so impressed with the intermediate routine. I know our student and junior instructor Michelle, was the choreographer- but you instilled in her that confidence and and gave her the opportunity to shine. They looked so good in their red.

Aaron, thanks so much for taking care of the sound and stepping in wherever needed- it made such a difference. Your bar routine was very, very cool.

Alexis and Francesca – what a team! Thank you for cleaning up the team performances! I know I am always up in the team routines- but you both really came in and got them together and they were spectacular. Alexis thank you for putting your special touch on the rhythmic routines. Francesca thank you for making sure the artistic and T&T team members knew their timing and where to go.

Dennis – our go-to guy! Great choreography for the 6:30 class- I so enjoy seeing you develop as a choreographer. We all appreciate that you so graciously teach and support wherever needed. You were also very impressive leading the warm-up routine for over 150 students!

Stacie- you know how to come in and pull things off! The T&T team was so impressive.  Thanks for being right in there for the class routines. I so appreciate you leading off the staff performances – being able to see you fly on the trampoline was a treat for all.

Fabu – You were keeping all the kids together and the music and especially the artistic team routines. You along with Francesca have done an amazing job with our girls. They were so impressive and having opportunity for the audience to see how well trained they are was a true highlight.

Miss Joan- nobody knows how to work a crowd like you and to keep the kids in line- with your signature sweet talking style. After the staff performance of flying and flipping everywhere- your beautiful handstand was right on time!

To all the gymnastics students and pre-team athletes- I was so proud! So many personalities – so much sass and you all performed like champions. You were so excited- but you worked so hard to learn your routines, do your solos, cartwheels and dance moves. Rock stars- yes you are!

To the team — you were something to behold today. For the first time we did not have professional performers- you gave such incredible performances it was a milestone that you were able to carry the Gala with your skill and confidence. Yes, I get very tough the week leading up to the Gala- but you never let me down and you inspired the students, parents, guests and me too!

To the Parents- thank you for your patience and support for this event. It was hot, many of you had very young children and siblings for an almost 2-hour show and longer if you stayed around during the rehearsal.  Do know that our staff and I truly appreciate you and what it takes to get your child to class or practice. Also know that I am taking your recommendations to heart.

That is why I am emotional- because we have outgrown the Gala to include all of the classes, pre- team, team, special guests and awards all in a single event.

Next year we will most likely have at least two Galas divided by age so that the kids and parents can have more time to hang out and enjoy a shorter event. We will still have Showtime in Harlem all together – but for our 20th Year it was a Gala that I will always cherish.

– Wendy

Black Gymnasts in History: Gwen Hilliard

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My mother, Gwen Hilliard, and I at a Women’s Sports Foundation dinner

As we finish up our Black Gymnasts in History project, I am adding my mom, Gwen Hilliard, to the list.

My mom was the one who got the Detroit Recreation Department, headed by Leon Atchison, to hire four Soviet coaches that were working in the suburbs of Detroit. That created the Detroit Metro Gymnasts (“DMG”). The coaches were Drs. Vladimir and Zina Mironov, Roza Litva and Mike Freidan. My team became one of the two strongest rhythmic gymnastics clubs in the country in the 1980s.  The DMG also had girls’ artistic, tumbling & trampoline, and acrobatics. Although the cost of training was minimal, the travel to competition was costly, so Mom organized the Friends of the Detroit Metro Gymnasts. “Friends” consisted mainly of the parents of the gymnasts- but she went far beyond. The City of Detroit became our partner and they hosted the National Team Training Camp before the Pan Pacific Championships in 1978. In 1980, the City of Detroit hosted the National Championships at Cobo Hall, the premier arena, and it was the first nationally televised rhythmic championships. It aired on CBS Sports, with Muriel Grossfeld as the analyst.

Gwen Hilliard became the first Black State and then Regional Chairperson for Rhythmic Gymnastics. As she travelled the country promoting the sport, Mom was always admired for her professionalism and personality. Everyone from all disciplines (artistic, rhythmic) continues to ask about her to this day. She took one of the early Jeff Metzger Boot Camps to learn more about the sport–all of this while she was a full-time administrator for the Detroit Public School System. My Dad, Stratford Hilliard, was there every step of the way. Hosting Bulgarian coaches and numerous rhythmic judges at our home, and Mom and Dad were right by my side when I had to challenge a decision when a selection committee kept me off the World Championship group routine because I “stood out too much.”

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At the Sydney Olympics with my parents, Stratford and Gwen Hilliard

As the story goes, Mom took acrobatics when she was young- but during a performance her father called out to her partner, “Don’t drop my daughter,” so she never performed again.

Thankfully, Mom came back to the sport and, two days before her 92nd birthday, we are honored to recognize Gwen Hilliard on our final day of our Black Gymnasts in History project.

Mom and WHGF Gymnasts
With WHGF team gymnasts at the annual foundation gala

BGIH Acknowledgements

This was a challenging, yet very rewarding project. Thank you to Pam Majumdar, the WHGF Social Media Consultant who worked so hard making sure we posted everyday.

Abie Grossfeld – what a historian! He gave me a list early on that was spot on- and kept helping along the way.

Dwight Normile at International Gymnast magazine – thank you for your help indeed and great (hard to find) photos.

Dave Green- Thank you for keeping us on track and for your great suggestions.

Makoto Sakamoto “Mako”: Abie asked me to contact Mako in Hawaii. Mako was so gracious; he was a teammate and boyhood friend of 1968 Olympian Kanati Allen.

Kanati Allen
Kanati Allen

With respect to Mr. Allen who passed away in 2011, we decided not to include him in our project, but here is his story from an interview in International Gymnast, January 1968:

Kanati Allen
5′-8″, 138 lbs.
Attended Los Angeles City High School
Physics major at UCLA

High School coach: John Muir, but said his main coaches were the Sakamoto brothers. Makoto Sakamoto was also on the 1968 Olympic team.

When asked (about) the proposed “Negro boycott of the U.S. team for the 1968 Olympics,” he responded as follows:

“In the first place, I am American Indian—5/8 Cherokee, from my mother and also a little Scotch and Irish. Having cleared that up, I don’t see yet how it would help to boycott the Olympics. I’d have to understand that first before I’d even consider it.”

He also said he considered other sports “are a game. Gymnastics is the only sport. It’s a kind of way of life.”

Kanati’s first name was James, and Mako confirmed that he had a Native American funeral service. After gymnastics, Kanti Allen earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Washington.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Gabrielle Douglas

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Gabby!!

There is something about great athletes when everyone knows them by their first name!

The top prize in Women’s Gymnastics is the All-Around Olympic Gold Medal. The Olympics is just its own event, and nothing matches the anticipation, pressure, intensity and drama.

I was fortunate to be able to attend this event thanks to my friend, Shane Geraghty, who gave me his ticket! He saw in my eyes that I just had to see this live. It was as dramatic and edge-of-the-seat thrilling as any sport event I have ever seen.

Adding to the Olympic Gold was her Silver Medal at last’s years World Championships. Wow wow wow! It is so rare for an Olympic Champion to come back at a World Championships like Gabby did.

The impact of her win along with her comeback resonates strongly. She opened the door wide open and inspired so many to the possibility of greatness.

Today for Black Gymnasts in History we salute reigning Olympic Champion Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas.

Read a recent article on Gabby’s training for the Rio Olympics here: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/sports/2015/11/13/douglas-focusing-on-rio-after-silver-at-worlds.html

Watch Gabby in action—her Olympic all-around title-winning routines at the 2012 Olympic Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xX23iuXswgI

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Simone Biles

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Simone Biles

Simone!!!

What more can you say—just one of the best gymnasts in history.

Initially, we were not going to feature Simone because she is still competing—but she has already made her mark on the sport and she was part of the inspiration for this project.

No matter what happens moving forward, what Simone Biles has achieved will stand the test of time and has made everyone so proud.

As part of our month-long Black Gymnasts in History project, we are proud to salute the most successful female World Champion Gymnast EVER, Simone Biles!

Read a recent feature on Simone by The New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/sports/olympics/simone-biles-gymnast-rio-olympics.html?_r=0

See Simone in action—her third consecutive world all-around title-winning floor exercise routine at the 2015 World Championships: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKZprJD-4eI

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: USA Gymnastics National Champions

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Recognizing the Black USA National Champions has revealed more interesting information. Some of the gymnasts that we featured before have numerous event titles. There are several who have one title but also had successful careers on the National Team and even won world titles as well.

Women’s All-Around Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 14 76.10
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 78.00
2001 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 16 74.912
2002 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 17 75.550
2013 Simone Biles Bannon’s 16 120.450
2014 Simone Biles World Champions 17 122.550
2015 Simone Biles World Champions 18 124.100

 

Women’s Vault Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 19.525
1986 Joyce Wilborn North Stars Gymnastics 16 19.425
1993 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 16 9.581
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.750
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.800
2003 Annia Hatch Stars 24 9.650
2004 Annia Hatch Stars 25 9.625
2009 Kayla Williams Gym Nest 16 29.075
2014 Simone Biles World Champions 17 31.025
2015 Simone Biles World Champions 18 31.550

 

Women’s Uneven Bars Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1992 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 15 9.812
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.900
1995 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 18 9.912
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.912
2002 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 17 9.450
2004 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 19 9.650
2012 Gabrielle Douglas Chow’s Gymnastics 16 31.300

 

Women’s Balance Beam Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 18.775
1986 Angie Denkins Will-Moor 17 18.850
1990 Betty Okino Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 9.825
1993 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 16 9.687
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.850
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.862
2001 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 16 9.525
2015 Simone Biles World Champions 18 30.700

 

Women’s Floor Exercise Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 19.375
1993 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 14 9.912
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.925
1995 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 18 9.900
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.900
2002 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 17 9.400
2003 Ashley Postell Capital 17 9.450
2010 Mattie Larson All Olympia 18 30.350
2014 Simone Biles World Champions 17 31.150

 

Men’s All-Around Champions

 Year Name Club Age Score
2012 John Orozco U.S.O.T.C. 19 184.850

 

Men’s Floor Exercise Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1977 Ron Galimore Louisiana State University 18
1979 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 20 19.300
1980 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 21 19.550
1988 Charles Lakes California Sun 25 19.550
2009 Joshua Dixon Stanford University 20 31.000  

 

Men’s Still Rings Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
2015 Donnell Whittenburg Team Hilton/USOTC 20 32.000

 

Men’s Vault Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1977 Ron Galimore Louisiana State University 18
1979 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 20 19.450
1980 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 21 19.500
1981 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 22 9.725
2005 Sean Golden Houston Gymnastics Academy 22 19.425
2007 Sean Golden Houston Gymnastics Academy 24 31.850
2014 Donnell Whittenburg USOTC 20 30.950

 

Men’s Parallel Bars Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1992 Jair Lynch Stanford University 20 9.900
1993 Chainey Umphrey University of California-Los Angeles 23 9.525
1996 Jair Lynch Stanford University 24 9.762

 

Men’s Horizontal Bar Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Mario McCutcheon Southern Connecticut State University 25 19.575
1992 Jair Lynch Stanford University 20 9.925
2014 John Orozco USOTC 21 31.850

 

Rhythmic Gymnastics
Ribbon Event
1990   Ingrid Knight (Cohee)

And then the lone Rhythmic National Event Champion! Ingrid Knight (Cohee).  I have known Ingrid for many years since when I was the coach at the United National International School. The photo of her is from those Nationals and includes Lori Fung, her coach, and the 1984 Olympic Champion, USA National Team Member, Charlene Edwards, my teammate from Detroit, and her Coach Magda.

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I was not able to go to the national Champs of T & T and Acrobatics – but will in the future!

Please take the time to watch the videos and links.

Angie Denkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79yheuMQl0w
Mattie Larson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn80km0qaUo
Ashley Postell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmYdyclNEJA
Joyce Wilborn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mMvmELyKOs
Kayla Williams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx3p28f4zzU

Josh Dixon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq4osvNnRZ0
Sean Golden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VXA2ZvFok4
Mario McCutcheon: https://youtu.be/fSlEf2q7UQw?t=10m
John Orozco: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/48452973#48452973
Donnell Whittenburg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EugHELBpis

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Individual Champions

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While it took more research and photos were more difficult to come by- this is still a very impressive list of the NCAA Men’s National Event Champions.

Many of the names we have profiled earlier this month, but there are seven gymnasts listed who are new to our project.

Today for Black Gymnasts in History we feature the individual men’s event NCAA Gymnastics Champions. Please do read more about each athlete.

All-Around
2007 Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, Oklahoma
2008 Casey Sandy, Penn State
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka57klL_HxE

High Bar
1978 Mel Cooley, Washington
1984 Charles Lakes, Illinois
1992 Jair Lynch, Stanford
2000 Michael Ashe, California
2001 Michael Ashe, California

Pommel Horse
1986 Curtis Holdsworth, UCLA

Parallel Bars
1993 Jair Lynch, Stanford
2004 Ramon Jackson, William & Mary
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHwDFuWCa1w

Vault
1964 Sidney Oglesby, Syracuse
1976 Sam Shaw, Cal State Fullerton
1978 Ron Galimore, LSU
1979 Leslie  “Les” Moore, Oklahoma
1980 Ron Galimore, Iowa State
1981 Ron Galimore, Iowa State

Floor Exercise
1977 Ron Galimore, LSU
1988 Chris Wyatt, Temple

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Sid Oglesby

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Sid Oglesby

Sid Oglesby- now this is a gem. Thank you, Abie Grossfeld.

The first Black NCAA National Event Champion in 1964!! Wow.

Sid Oglesby NCAA Champ

And the story does not stop there – Sid went on to become a highly respected public official.

Another important find is that Sid Oglesby, having to put up with extensive hardship, also successfully advocated to ban Syracuse University’s interscholastic competition with segregated schools in the 1960s.

Take the time to read his story:
http://www.syracuse.com/empire/index.ssf/2015/12/how_a_5_bet_led_syracuses_sid_oglesby_to_a_life_confronting_races_ugly_head.html

Sid Oglesby, we are truly honored to recognize you today for our Black Gymnasts in History Project.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Individual Champions

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The NCAA has been an outstanding platform for many Black gymnasts to showcase their talent. Many of these gymnasts competed for the USA on the national team and even the Olympics! There is something special about the maturity and expression of College Gymnastics.  These athletes come into their own and express it through their sport. In addition, most are superb students and have gone onto other challenging careers, taking their quest for excellence with them.

Today, we salute the NCAA Women’s National Gymnastics Individual Champions for our Black Gymnasts in History Project.

Please see the full list below and click for more articles and videos to see the gymnasts in action.

NCAA Champions – All-Around

1989   Corinne Wright, Georgia
1990   Dee Dee Foster, Alabama
2001   Onnie Willis, UCLA Co-Champion
            Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9R5bzimIBI
2005  Tasha Schwikert, UCLA
2008  Tasha Schwikert, UCLA
2012   Kytra Hunter, Florida
2015   Kytra Hunter, Florida Co-Champion

NCAA Vault Champions

1989   Kim Hamilton, UCLA
2003   Ashley Miles, Alabama
             Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DufAIVP8yDY
2004   Ashley Miles, Alabama
2006   Ashley Miles, Alabama
2012   Kytra Hunter, Florida
2013   Diandra Milliner, Alabama Co-Champion
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKLuudKKV2o
2015   Elizabeth Price, Stanford
            Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wmbnEGKfAs

NCAA Uneven Bars Champions

1993    Agina Simpkins, Georgia
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLW5ZKh9E4
1996   Stephanie Woods, Alabama
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxVB223AMHQ
2002   Andreé Pickens, Alabama
2008   Tasha Schwikert, UCLA

NCAA Balance Beam Champions

1999   Andreé Pickens, Alabama Co-Champion
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YdWzsum8PY
2007   Ashley Postell, Utah

NCAA Floor Exercise Champions

1987   Kim Hamilton, UCLA
1988   Kim Hamilton, UCLA
1989   Kim Hamilton, UCLA Co-Champion
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEBYlcZSonI
1989   Corinne Wright, Georgia Co-Champion
1995   Stella Umeh, UCLA Co- Champion
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5cqZEcNvio
1997   Leah Brown, Georgia
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsZO4WUzj9Y
1998   Stella Umeh, UCLA Co-Champion
2004   Ashley Miles, Alabama Co-Champion
2007   Morgan Dennis, Alabama
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NkmXYT74j0
2015   Kytra Hunter, Florida

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Olympic Coaches

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Miles Avery with Paul Hamm at the 2004 Olympics

It is a pleasure to add Miles Avery and Alan Hatch to our Black Gymnasts in History lineup. Both served as coaches at the sport’s highest level—the Olympic Games.

Both have also coached Olympic medalists – Alan coached Silver Medalist Annia Hatch-Wooten and Miles coached 2004 Olympic Men’s Champion Paul Hamm.

As an athlete, Miles competed as a member of the USA National Team, and during his long career at Ohio State, he coached several national, international and Olympic athletes.

 

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Alan Hatch at Woodward Gymnastics Camp

Alan has travelled the world as a coach for several other countries and has instructed a long list of champion athletes on many levels. The journey that brought Annia Hatch to the U.S. National Team, World Championships, and then onto Olympic success after suffering a massive knees injury was masterful indeed.

One must remember that the coaches spend the same amount of hours in a gym as their athletes. Miles and Alan continue to serve our sport as great coaches, and we salute Miles Avery and Alan Hatch today for Black Gymnasts in History.

Read more about Miles here: http://coachmilesavery.com/COACH_MILES_AVERY/COACH_MILES_AVERY.html

See a behind-the-scenes video with Alan here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZaD_xYY614

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: The Jesse White Tumbling Team

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Today we feature the Jesse White Tumbling Team, based in Chicago.

I have heard so much about this group over the years. The Jesse White Tumblers are legendary in the Midwest, and one must appreciate that the Honorable Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State, has taken this amazing group around the world to celebrate this sport.

Please take the time to read about this amazing team here: http://jessewhitetumblingteam.com/about/

Here is a great video:

Jessie White Tumbling Team

Today we are proud to salute the incredible Jesse White for Black Gymnasts in History.

Wendy

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