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: 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: Worlds Medalists

 

Earning a medal at the Worlds Championships is no easy feat in the various disciplines of gymnastics. Today we honor the 12 athletes who have taken home some hardware at worlds competitions. Enjoy videos featuring these athletes at the top of their game!

Simone Biles (14)
2013 All-Around Gold & Floor Exercise Gold & Vault Silver & Balance Beam Bronze; 2014 Team Gold & All-Around Gold & Balance Beam Gold & Floor Exercise Gold & Vault Silver, 2015 Team Gold & All-Around Gold & Balance Beam Gold & Floor Exercise Gold & Vault Bronze
Dickie Bivins (2)
1980 Team Gold & Platform Tumbling Bronze & Power Tumbling Bronze
Shenea Booth (2)
2002 Sports Acro Mixed Pair Gold, 2004 Sports Acro Mixed Pair Gold
Dominique Dawes (4)
1993 Balance Beam Silver & Uneven Bars Silver, 1994 Team Silver, 1996 Balance Beam Bronze

Gabby Douglas (3)

2011 Team Gold & 2015 Team Gold & All-Around Silver
Annia Hatch (1)
1996 Vault Bronze
Rayshine Harris (6)
1993 Platform Tumbling Silver
1994 Team Gold & Power Tumbling Silver
1995 Power Tumbling Silver
1996 Team Gold
1996 World Champion – Tumbling

Mattie Larson (1)
2010 Team Silver
Edward Meadows (2)
1982 Power Tumbling Bronze
1980 Team Gold – Tumbling
Ashley Miles (1)
2001 Team Bronze

Alexandra Nicholson (2)
1972 Trampoline Gold, 1974 Trampoline Gold
Betty Okino (3)
1991 Team Silver & Balance Beam Bronze, 1992 Uneven Bars Silver
John Orozco (3)
2011 Team Bronze, 2013 Parallel Bars Bronze, 2014 Team Bronze
Ashley Postell (1)
2002 Balance Beam Gold
Tasha Schwikert (2)
2001 Team Bronze, 2003 Team Gold
Rashaan Sampson (3)
1990 Team Gold – Tumbling
1994 Team Gold – Tumbling
1996 Team Gold – Tumbling
Roger Walker (1)
1996 Team Gold – Tumbling

Donnell Whittenburg (2)
2014 Team Bronze, 2015 Vault Bronze
Aaron Wilkins (3)
1988 Team Gold – Tumbling
1990 Team Gold – Tumbling & Power Tumbling Bronze