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: 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: 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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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Gabby Douglas

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-5-13-27-pmGabby!!

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 at the 2012 Games 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 all-around silver medal at the 2015 World Championships and her performance at the 2016 Olympics, where she helped the “Final Five” win a team gold medal. Wow wow wow! It is so RARE for an Olympic Champion to come back to a World Championships and another Olympic Games like Gabby did.

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

Today for Black Gymnasts in History we salute 2012 Olympic Champion Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas.

Watch Gabby in action during her silver-medal-winning performance at the 2015 Worlds.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Dianne Durham

 

DianneDurham (2)

Today we feature Dianne Durham, a powerhouse and amazing gymnast.

At the 1983 National Championships in Chicago, my team, the Detroit Metro Gymnasts, were guest performers. The day before the finals, I realized that Dianne was poised to become the All-Around National Champion the next day. I called my mom and told her she needed to drive down to see this incredible event. And the next day- wow! Dianne Durham became the first Black All-Around Women’s Gymnastics Senior National Champion. My mom is from East Chicago, Indiana, right next to Gary where Dianne is from and so she was doubly proud.

Those that were able to witness Dianne’s gymnastics know that she was just one of the best! The heartbreaking circumstances that prevented her from competing at the 1984 Olympics are a loss to all of us who so admired her gymnastics.

I was fortunate to perform with Dianne in numerous gymnastics shows. Thanks to Paul Ziert, who still produces great gymnastics TV events worldwide. We had a great time performing a variety of routines, but my favorite was a trio with me, Dianne and Olympic Champion skater Robin Cousins.

Dianne is a national judge and it is wonderful that she gives back to the sport. I was (and still am) a fan, and she inspired me as she did so many others.

Dianne Durham – a woman of many firsts in our sport and we are so proud to feature you in our Black Gymnasts in History project.

Read all about the highlights of Dianne’s career here: http://www.gymn.ca/gymnasticgreats/wag/durham.htm

Watch a video clip of Dianne on uneven bars at the 1983 U.S. Nationals.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Shenea Booth

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Acrobatics (Sports Acro) is one of my favorite gymnastics disciplines. We had an acro team at Detroit Metro Gymnasts, and I did some acro choreography back in the day.

I have only been able to watch from the sidelines, but the career that Sheana Booth had along with her partner, Arthur Davis, was incredible.

What has been as impressive as their competitive days is their professional career. Being a finalist for America’s Got Talent allowed millions to witness their extraordinary skills.

For being one of the top acrobatic gymnasts in the world along with her partner, we are glad to feature Shenea Booth today in our Black Gymnasts in History project.

Read more about Shene and Arthur here: http://www.usghof.org/files/bio/booth_davis/booth_davis.html

Wendy

Watch a video of Shenea performing with Arthur at the 2002 World Championships.

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Shenea Booth and Arthur Davis

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Dominique Dawes

dominique_dawes

Not enough can be said about Dominique Dawes. She inspired not only thousands of girls to take up and pursue excellence in gymnastics—including the 2012 Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas—but oh so many non-gymnasts by her achievements, longevity and yes, the awesome way that she performed her routines.

She is the only U.S. gymnast to medal in three Olympics—just the fact that she made three Olympic teams is amazing. So long at the top of the sport – this intensified her impact not just on African Americans but also on all who admire the sport of gymnastics.

Dominique continues to inspire and has a long list of achievements outside of gymnastics. I was fortunate over the years to work alongside or closely with Dominique. We were both on Broadway at the same time and both worked in broadcasting and both served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

I so appreciate that she has always supported my gymnastics foundation going back to the beginning—when she visited our free summer program in 1996 and in 2008, and spoke at my reception in NYC when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Superstar is an understatement, incredible is close, but “Awesome” will always be associated with Dominique Dawes. We are proud to feature her today in our Black Gymnasts in History Project. And we want to wish a special congratulations to Dominique on the recent birth of two twins!

Read a full profile on Dominique by NRP here: http://www.npr.org/2011/12/14/143661139/dominique-dawes-from-olympian-to-health-advocate

Watch a video of Dominique’s 1996 Olympic medal-winning floor routine.

Wendy

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