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: 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: Dave Green

 

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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: 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: 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

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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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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Alexandra Nicholson

 

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A few years ago, when conducting a follow up visit for USA Gymnastics, Joy Umenhofer, an International Trampoline Competitor, coach and USA Gymnastics Expert, told me about Alexandra Nicholson, with whom she had competed and trained with in trampoline.

Alexandra was perhaps the most accomplished US trampolinist of her day, and indeed has often been called the greatest trampolinist in history.

Lo and behold, Ebony Magazine did an in-depth story about Alexandra in June 1972 after she won the USA Trampoline Championships. You can read the entire article online here: https://books.google.com/books?id=N9oDAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA1&pg=PA57&

Gotta love Ebony Magazine – and thank you, Joy, for sharing with us about this gymnastics icon!

Take a look back at one of Alexandra’s amazing sequences in this video.

Wendy

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