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:

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!


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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Gabby Douglas


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.


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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Dianne Durham


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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:

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


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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Sid Oglesby


Read our profile on Sid from 2016: 

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

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

The story does not stop there – he went on to become a highly respected public official.

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:

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



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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Shenea Booth


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:


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

Shenea Booth and Arthur Davis

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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: 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:

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


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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:

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.


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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

Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Rayshine Harris

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Tumbling was my first gymnastics discipline.  Shout out to the Detroit Y Tumbling Team and our coach, Mr. Julius Lee. So it is a treat to feature Rayshine Harris.

There’s not much more to say about Rayshine as a champion – he was and still is an amazing tumbler.

Rayshine has an incredible story. From Newark, New Jersey, Rayshine was a member of the famous Flip City Tumblers, coached by the legendary David Green.

From the Shine Tumblers website

In 1994 Mr. Harris broke the world record for the most difficult tumbling pass and then continued breaking his own world record in 1995 and 1996. It wasn’t until 10 years later that his record was broken. Mr. Harris left tumbling right at the beginning of his prime, and is now committed to helping others achieve their lifelong goals through the sport of Power Tumbling.

In 1999, Rayshine and I happened to be on the same flight from the West Coast. I was on a mission to recruit him for the international gymnastics performance company AntiGravity. Once Rayshine joined AG, he embarked on an amazing international performance career that continues to this day.

I personally thank Rayshine for the numerous times he performed to the delight and awe of my WHGF students. Whenever I design a gymnastics center, I always make sure to include a tumbling rod floor inspired by Rayshine and his incredible talent.

To Rayshine Harris – World Champion, international gymnastics performance superstar and community activist, we are proud to feature you in the Black Gymnasts in History project.

Watch a quick video highlighting Rayshine’s incredible career:


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Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Olympic Medalists

As we posted yesterday, 13 African Americans have made the U.S. Olympic Team for gymnastics.

Among these amazing athletes, a total of 17 Olympic Medals have been won. Please enjoy the videos below of some of their-medal-winning routines!

Simone Biles (5) 4 Gold (2016 Team, All-Around, Vault, Floor Exercise), 1 Bronze (2016 Balance Beam)

Dominique Dawes (4) 1 Gold (1996 Team), 3 Bronze (1992 Team,1996 Floor Exercise, 2000 Team)

Gabby Douglas (3) 3 Gold (2012 Team, 2012 All-Around, 2016 Team)

Annia Hatch (2) 2 Silver (2004 Team, 2004 Vault)

Betty Okino (1) 1 Bronze (1992 Team)

Jair Lynch (1) 1 Silver (1996 Parallel Bars)

Tasha Schwikert (1) 1 Bronze (2000 Team)