Black Gymnasts in History: Tasha Schwikert


Read our profile of Tasha from 2016: 

Tasha  — now she is one accomplished gymnast! On so many levels!

Olympics, NCAA, USA, World Championships!

Determination and fortitude are two words that describe her career.

I have known her first coach, Cassie Rice, for years – Cassie put her on the international scene.

And then Valorie Kondos Field, her coach at UCLA – Valorie really brings out the personality in her gymnasts.

They are both standouts for the Pac 12- see below.

It is a thrill to profile these great athletes and today we salute Tasha Schwikert for Black Gymnasts in History.


Read more on Tasha here:

Watch Tasha performing on vault at the 2003 World Championships:

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Black Gymnasts in History: Taqiy Abdullah Simmons

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 5.59.00 PM.pngRead our profile on Taqiy from 2016: 

Taqiy made history by winning the Men’s NCAA All-Around title. His gymnastics and life story is very interesting; please take the time to learn about his rise to the top of NCAA Men’s gymnastics while maintaining his 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.

Taqiy Abdullah Simmons, we salute you for our Black Gymnastics in History project.

Read more about Taqiy here:


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

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sheneaboothRead our profile on Shenea from 2016: 

Acrobatics (Sports Acro) is one of my favorite gymnastics disciplines. We had an acro team at the 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:


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Black Gymnasts in History: Annia Hatch


Read our profile of Annia from 2016: 

Annia Portuondo Hatch Wooten- now that long name has a long and very impressive story to go with it.

I met Annia after receiving a call from the legendary Muriel Grossfeld. She said that Annia needed help as she was making a comeback for the Olympic Games. I knew her then-husband, the wonderful coach Alan Hatch, so of course I would do whatever I could. They did not need my help!

Anna went on to make the 2003 World Championship Team – but suffered a devastating knee injury. Lo and behold, she came back to win the team and individual silver medal at the 2004 Olympics on her signature event – vault.

After the Olympics, Annia had a great career as a fashion designer – I had a chance to go see one of her shows in NYC.

I am so grateful that Annia and Alan came to one of my foundation’s galas and Annia performed on beam- so super cool- she was gracious and gave great encouragement to the students in both English and Spanish.

Do read about Annia’s incredible journey here:

Annia Hatch- stylish, determined and gracious- we are proud to salute you today for Black Gymnasts in History.


Watch a video of Annia shortly after being named to the 2004 U.S. Olympic team:

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Black Gymnasts in History: Chainey Umphrey


Read our profile of Chainey from 2016: 

When I remember seeing Chainey Umphrey compete in gymnastics, I remember thinking he was strong, solid and calm.

Calm is an unusual description of an athlete but that is what comes to mind. It was always known that Chainey also wanted to be a doctor, and so it is not a surprise to learn of his success in the medical field.

When Chainey came to visit the WHGF’s free summer program, he also performed to the delight of the kids and the crowd. He was so gracious and inspiring, and made quite a powerful lasting impression.

Please take the time to read this profile:

For Black Gymnasts in History we salute Olympian and doctor Chainey Umphrey.

Watch a video of Chainey performing on floor at the 1996 Olympic Trials:


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Black Gymnasts in History: Dominique Dawes

dominique_dawesRead our profile of Dominique from 2016: 

Well—not enough can be said about Dominique Dawes. She truly inspired not only thousands of girls to take up and pursue excellence in gymnastics—including the 2012 Olympic Champion—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 for African Americans but also for 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.

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: Jair Lynch


Read our profile of Jair from 2016: 

It has been such a pleasure to see Jair Lynch go from an Olympian to Olympic Medalist to serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors to outstanding Real Estate Developer.

What can be said is that whatever Jair does, he is super successful. He was obviously an amazing gymnast, competing on two Olympic teams. His leadership skills shone through as the captain of the 1996 team.

His performance when he won the Olympic silver medal in 1996 was mesmerizing, full of drama, and exhilarating.

Over the years I would see Jair at the Olympics when he was on the USOC Board, and I have always admired his amazing skills as a leading businessman in Washington, D.C.

Do take a look at his website – it is impressive.

Jair Lynch, a true Renaissance man, we salute you today as part of our Black Gymnasts in History Project.

Watch Jair in his Olympic silver medal-winning parallel bars performance in 1996:


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Black Gymnasts in History: Betty Okino


Read our profile of Betty from 2016: 

Betty Okino – what a wonderful and elegant gymnast!

Long limbs can often be a challenge in artistic gymnastics- but when that challenge is overcome it makes for long lines, extension for days and very pretty routines.

Betty’s gymnastics was a delight to watch. On top of that she had some serious tricks up her leotard sleeve. The Okino is a triple turn on the balance beam. To the envy of most female artistic gymnasts who are always relieved to get that dreaded single turn on beam over with – Betty was spinning away.

It was not just the beam; Betty was incredibly successful on all of the events. Please take the time to read this interview from 2014, it is very informative:

At the 1992 Olympics, I was the rhythmic analyst for NBC and the sideline artistic gymnastics reporter (anyone remember the Triple cast?). Compulsories were still in the competition, which made for some pretty long days. The gymnasts would pass by me many times and I remember Betty and Kim asking (whispering) me if I had any candy stashed away that I could give them :).

No candy but Betty got her hardware winning a Team Bronze Medal – starting quite a trend, with the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team winning Team Olympic Medals in every Olympic Games from then on.

Betty Okino, we are delighted to feature you in our Black Gymnasts in History Project.

Watch Betty in action performing on the balance beam routine at the 1991 American Cup


Black Gymnasts in History: Corinne Wright

corinne-wrightRead our profile of Corinne from 2016: 

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

There was so much I did not know – but I think that is her personality.

I always knew she was a great gymnast – and that was fun, we always had such great respect for each other’s gymnastics.

Corrine was the first Black female to win the NCAA All-Around Gymnastics Championships!

She has had a great career on the national team- then in the NCAA and now in coaching.

Somewhere she found the time to go to law school, too!

Read a full profile of Corinne here:

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


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Black Gymnasts in History 2017: Wendy Hilliard


Photo by Kenn Duncan

It is February 1, 2017

–So much going on today! It is the first day of Black History Month, Langston Hughes’ birthday, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, AND it is the first day of our 2nd annual Black Gymnasts in History series.

I will lead off the series today. I have a lot to celebrate- I am Black, a female athlete, and I was the first black rhythmic gymnast to represent the USA in international competition.

It is important to remember that to break barriers, to fight for inclusion and acceptance, to achieve equal access and rights for all Americans, takes a struggle – a constant and persistent fight to do the right thing.

My experiences led me to become an advocate. I had to stand up for myself as a Black gymnast and to stand up for the rights of all female athletes as the first Black and gymnast to serve as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, and for over 20 years making sure underserved youth have access to exceptional gymnastics training in Harlem, NYC, and in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan.



It was tough but I always had support – God, my parents and family, their friends, my coaches, my friends and teammates, champion athlete mentors, the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Board of the WHGF, our sponsors, partners, donors, my staff, gymnastics students, and their parents – all have been there on this journey.



Here’s the lesson – the fight is always worth it!

We have some incredible superstar Black gymnasts, fierce female athletes and thousands of healthy kids cartwheeling their way to become strong and productive citizens.


“Let America be America where equality is in the air we breathe.” – Langston Hughes