Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Gymnastics Firsts & Record Holders

This year, our third year profiling Black Gymnasts in History, we’ve given a different focus. We’ve highlighted some of the most unique accomplishments of gymnasts, from going viral to winning World Championship medals. On this final day of February, we honor the gymnasts whose accomplishments were the first of their kind among black gymnasts and sometimes among gymnasts of any race (and in some cases, the athletes below established records that still stand).

Please click on the names to read our individual profiles, as available, for each athlete below.

James Kanati Allen
First black male gymnast to be named to the U.S. Olympic Team (1968)

Simone Biles
Most decorated American gymnast in history, with 19 Olympic & World Championship medals
American gymnast, male or female, with the most gold medals won at a single Olympic Games (4 in 2016)

Dickie Bivins
First black male gymnast to win an individual medal at the World Championships (1980: Platform tumbling, Bronze & Power Tumbling, Bronze)

Shenea Booth
First black Sports Acro Mixed Pairs world champion (2002, 2004)

Luci Collins
First black female gymnast to be named to the U.S. Olympic Team (1980)

Dominique Dawes
First black female gymnast to attend more than one Olympics (1992, 1996, 200)
First black female gymnast to win an individual Olympic medal (Floor bronze, 1996)
Only American gymnast to be a member of three medal-winning Olympic teams (1992, 1996, 2000)

Gabby Douglas
First black Olympic all-around champion (2012)

Dianne Durham

First black gymnast to win the U.S. Classic (1983)
First black female U.S. all-around champion (1983)
First black female gymnast to win an individual national event title (1983 Vault, Balance Beam, Floor)

Ron Galimore
First black male gymnast to win an individual national event title (1977 Floor, Vault)

Rayshine Harris
Most decorated black U.S. power tumbler (12-time World Champion and 5-time National Champion)

Wendy Hilliard
First black gymnast to represent the USA in rhythmic gymnastics (1980s)

Jair Lynch
First black male gymnast to attend more than one Olympics (1992, 1996)
First black male gymnast to win an individual Olympic medal (Parallel Bars silver, 1996)

Alexandra Nicholson
First black female gymnast to win an individual medal at the World Championships (1972: Trampoline, Gold)
First trampolinist, male or female, to complete the triffis

Sig Oglesby
First black NCAA individual event champion (Vault, 1964):
First black All-American gymnast

Betty Okino
First black gymnast, male or female, to win the American Cup (1991)

John Orozco
First black male U.S. all-around champion (2012)

Taqiy Abdullah Simmons
First black NCAA male all-around champion (2007)

Corrinne Wright
First black NCAA female all-around champion (1980s)

We are proud to salute these record-setting athletes on this final day of Black Gymnasts in History 2018!

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: James Kanati Allen

James Kanati Allen was a pioneer in Men’s Gymnastics for the U.S. A Los Angeles native, James attended UCLA, where he studied phsyicas and earned an all-around bronze medal in the NCAA Championships. He then went on to be the first black male to be named to the U.S. Olympic team (in 1968). After the Olympics, he earned a PhD in physics from the University of Washington.

James passed away in December 2011 but his accomplishments in and out of the gym will always be remembered. We are proud to salute you!

Please take the time to read this profile on James from International Gymnast.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Winners of the U.S. Classic

Every year, the U.S. Classic precedes the National Championships, and during an Olympic year, it’s especially significant. Since the competition’s start in 1983, won by Dianne Durham, seven black gymnasts have won the title of U.S. Classic champion. Please take the time to watch these ladies in action!

Dianne Durham, 1983

Dominique Dawes, 1993

Tasha Schwikert, 2001

Annia Hatch, 2002

Olivia Courtney, 2009

Mattie Larson, 2010

Simone Biles, 2014 & 2015

We are proud to salute our Black Gymnasts who have won the U.S. Classic!

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: American Cup Winners

Winning the annual American Cup is a big deal. Since the competition’s debut in 1976, six black gymnasts have won the coveted title of American Cup champion. Please take the time to watch the winners’ performances!

Betty Okino, 1991

Dominique Dawes, 1994

Tasha Schwikert, 2002

Elizabeth Price, 2014

Simone Biles, 2015

Gabby Douglas, 2016

We are proud to salute our Black Gymnasts who have won the American Cup!

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Gymnasts with Skills Named After Them

What a unique honor and feat when gymnasts get skills named after them! To do so, gymnasts must successfully complete a skill at a World Championships or an Olympic Games.

Four black U.S. gymnasts have skills named after them that are still included in the current FIG Code of Points. 

Betty Okino
– Uneven bars: clear underswing with 180 degree twist to back flip in stretched position
– Balance beam: triple turn on one leg

Jair Lynch
– High bar: Tkatchev with a half turn prior to the catch to a mixed el-grip and swing back up to handstand

Simone Biles
– Floor exercise: Double layout half out

Donnell Whittenburg
– Still rings: Triple back pike dismount

We are proud to salute these gymnasts who added something new to the sport while at the top of their game!

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Multi-Year Olympians


It is such a feat to reach Olympian-status in the sport of gymnastics — it is truly the pinnacle of the sport. What’s remarkable is that three Black Gymnasts have not only earned that honor more than once (Dominique Dawes 3x in 1992, 1996 and 2000; Jair Lynch 2x in 1992 and 1996; and Gabby Douglas 2x in 2012 and 2016), they’ve also all won individual medals. Dominique won a bronze on the floor exercise in 1996; Jair won a silver on parallel bars in 1996; and Gabby won a gold in the all-around in 2012.

Please take the time to read these athletes’ individual profiles (click the links above) and enjoy some videos of their performances at multiple Olympics!

Jair Lynch at the 1992 Olympics

Dominique Dawes at the 1992 Olympics

Jair Lynch at the 1996 Olympics

Dominique Dawes at the 1996 Olympics

Dominique Dawes at the 2000 Olympics

Gabby Douglas at the 2012 Olympics

Gabby Douglas at the 2016 Olympics

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Dave Green

 

dave-green 

Dave Green and Flip City – legends indeed!

The impact of Flip City was immense on so many levels. For the World Champions, for putting Newark on the map (in a positive way), and for providing an outlet for the youth that set them on a path to lead constructive and productive lives.

Oh yes, I am a big big fan–I always look to the success of Flip City and the trailblazing work of David Green. I often reach out when I need advice for my foundation.

We are honored to recognize Dave Green today for our Black Gymnastics in History project.

Here are a few photos Dave has been kind enough to share.

 

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Steve Butcher

 

As we gear up for our annual Harlem Gymnastics Invitational, I am reminded that gymnastics is a sport of rules. Each discipline has a book of rules called the Code of Points! The Code of Points is the responsibility of the Technical Committee of the International Federation of Gymnastics (“FIG”). And Steve Butcher is the technical coordinator for the FIG! Most recently, he also served as president of the FIG Men’s Technical Committee.

For ten years I was on the USAG Executive Committee with Jackie Fie, who was the President of the Women’s Technical Committee. I was in awe of her knowledge, passion, and fairness, and also how she had to so carefully navigate this international group of gymnastics officials.

I am in awe of Steve Butcher, too- and so so proud!  I have known Steve for many years and it has been amazing to see him rise to the top of our sport. I follow him as he travels the world, holds court at the Olympic Games and makes his mark and sets the stage for the best male gymnasts in the world!

Today for Black Gymnasts in History we salute Steve Butcher, President of the FIG Men’s Technical Committee.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: The Jesse White Tumbling Team

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Today we feature the Chicago-based Jesse White Tumbling Team.

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/

Check out this video on the tumbling team below.

Today we are proud to salute the incredible Jesse White Tumbling Team as part of our Black Gymnasts in History projecte.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: NCAA All-Around Champions

 

 

 

 

Corinne and Taqiy made history by winning the women’s and men’s NCAA All-Around Championships, respectively. What a pleasure it is to recount their legacies!

I have known Corrine for some time. She has always been so gracious and, of course, what a great smile!

I always knew she was a great gymnast, and we always had such great respect for each other’s gymnastics. She has had a great career on the national team; in the NCAA as a University of Georgia Bulldog in the ’80s, and now in coaching.

Somewhere along the way Corinne found the time to go to law school, too!

Watch a video of Corinne on the floor exercise at the 1986 Olympic Festival.

Taqiy’s gymnastics and life story is very interesting; as he rose to the top of NCAA Men’s gymnastics, he maintained a commitment to his hometown community.

Taqiy comes from a long line of Oklahoma gymnastics greats. We congratulate his success and admire his continuing support of the sport through coaching.

Read more about Taqiy here: http://espn.go.com/espn/blackhistory2008/news/story?id=3229693

Watch a video of Taqiy performing on the pommel horse in 2005.

Corinne Wright and Taqiy Abdullah Simmons, we salute you for our Black Gymnastics in History project!

Wendy

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