Black Gymnasts in History 2018: Simone Biles

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Simone Biles. Her name stands on its own.

Our reigning Olympic champion is back in training for the 2020 Olympics and (should we be surprised?) already has all of her Olympic skills back.

Biles penned a bestselling autobiography in late 2016 and, tomorrow, we get to relive her incredible journey to the 2016 Olympics with the premiere of her Lifetime biopic. Watch the trailer below!

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: http://www.usghof.org/files/bio/booth_davis/booth_davis.html

Watch a video of Shenea performing with Arthur at the 2002 World Championships: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7QdR7WrXWs

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Jair Lynch

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 http://www.jairlynch.com – 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v5wqlufZoM&feature=youtu.be&t=6m47s

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Betty Okino

bettyokino

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: http://www.tripletwistgymnastics.com/2014/01/rewind-interview-with-betty-okino.html

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
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqN5o8qGxe4

Wendy

Black Gymnasts in History: Gwen Hilliard

Gwen

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My mother, Gwen Hilliard, and I at a Women’s Sports Foundation dinner

As we finish up our Black Gymnasts in History project, I am adding my mom, Gwen Hilliard, to the list.

My mom was the one who got the Detroit Recreation Department, headed by Leon Atchison, to hire four Soviet coaches that were working in the suburbs of Detroit. That created the Detroit Metro Gymnasts (“DMG”). The coaches were Drs. Vladimir and Zina Mironov, Roza Litva and Mike Freidan. My team became one of the two strongest rhythmic gymnastics clubs in the country in the 1980s.  The DMG also had girls’ artistic, tumbling & trampoline, and acrobatics. Although the cost of training was minimal, the travel to competition was costly, so Mom organized the Friends of the Detroit Metro Gymnasts. “Friends” consisted mainly of the parents of the gymnasts- but she went far beyond. The City of Detroit became our partner and they hosted the National Team Training Camp before the Pan Pacific Championships in 1978. In 1980, the City of Detroit hosted the National Championships at Cobo Hall, the premier arena, and it was the first nationally televised rhythmic championships. It aired on CBS Sports, with Muriel Grossfeld as the analyst.

Gwen Hilliard became the first Black State and then Regional Chairperson for Rhythmic Gymnastics. As she travelled the country promoting the sport, Mom was always admired for her professionalism and personality. Everyone from all disciplines (artistic, rhythmic) continues to ask about her to this day. She took one of the early Jeff Metzger Boot Camps to learn more about the sport–all of this while she was a full-time administrator for the Detroit Public School System. My Dad, Stratford Hilliard, was there every step of the way. Hosting Bulgarian coaches and numerous rhythmic judges at our home, and Mom and Dad were right by my side when I had to challenge a decision when a selection committee kept me off the World Championship group routine because I “stood out too much.”

Dad Wendy and Mom Sydney Olympics
At the Sydney Olympics with my parents, Stratford and Gwen Hilliard

As the story goes, Mom took acrobatics when she was young- but during a performance her father called out to her partner, “Don’t drop my daughter,” so she never performed again.

Thankfully, Mom came back to the sport and, two days before her 92nd birthday, we are honored to recognize Gwen Hilliard on our final day of our Black Gymnasts in History project.

Mom and WHGF Gymnasts
With WHGF team gymnasts at the annual foundation gala

BGIH Acknowledgements

This was a challenging, yet very rewarding project. Thank you to Pam Majumdar, the WHGF Social Media Consultant who worked so hard making sure we posted everyday.

Abie Grossfeld – what a historian! He gave me a list early on that was spot on- and kept helping along the way.

Dwight Normile at International Gymnast magazine – thank you for your help indeed and great (hard to find) photos.

Dave Green- Thank you for keeping us on track and for your great suggestions.

Makoto Sakamoto “Mako”: Abie asked me to contact Mako in Hawaii. Mako was so gracious; he was a teammate and boyhood friend of 1968 Olympian Kanati Allen.

Kanati Allen
Kanati Allen

With respect to Mr. Allen who passed away in 2011, we decided not to include him in our project, but here is his story from an interview in International Gymnast, January 1968:

Kanati Allen
5′-8″, 138 lbs.
Attended Los Angeles City High School
Physics major at UCLA

High School coach: John Muir, but said his main coaches were the Sakamoto brothers. Makoto Sakamoto was also on the 1968 Olympic team.

When asked (about) the proposed “Negro boycott of the U.S. team for the 1968 Olympics,” he responded as follows:

“In the first place, I am American Indian—5/8 Cherokee, from my mother and also a little Scotch and Irish. Having cleared that up, I don’t see yet how it would help to boycott the Olympics. I’d have to understand that first before I’d even consider it.”

He also said he considered other sports “are a game. Gymnastics is the only sport. It’s a kind of way of life.”

Kanati’s first name was James, and Mako confirmed that he had a Native American funeral service. After gymnastics, Kanti Allen earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Washington.

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Gabrielle Douglas

Gabby

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Gabby!!

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 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 Silver Medal at last year’s World Championships. Wow wow wow! It is so rare for an Olympic Champion to come back at a World Championships like Gabby did.

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

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

Read a recent article on Gabby’s training for the Rio Olympics here: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/sports/2015/11/13/douglas-focusing-on-rio-after-silver-at-worlds.html

Watch Gabby in action—her Olympic all-around title-winning routines at the 2012 Olympic Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xX23iuXswgI

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Simone Biles

Simone (1)

Simone Biles

Simone!!!

What more can you say—just one of the best gymnasts in history.

Initially, we were not going to feature Simone because she is still competing—but she has already made her mark on the sport and she was part of the inspiration for this project.

No matter what happens moving forward, what Simone Biles has achieved will stand the test of time and has made everyone so proud.

As part of our month-long Black Gymnasts in History project, we are proud to salute the most successful female World Champion Gymnast EVER, Simone Biles!

Read a recent feature on Simone by The New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/sports/olympics/simone-biles-gymnast-rio-olympics.html?_r=0

See Simone in action—her third consecutive world all-around title-winning floor exercise routine at the 2015 World Championships: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKZprJD-4eI

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: USA Gymnastics National Champions

USAG_Champs

womenchamps

menchamps

 

Recognizing the Black USA National Champions has revealed more interesting information. Some of the gymnasts that we featured before have numerous event titles. There are several who have one title but also had successful careers on the National Team and even won world titles as well.

Women’s All-Around Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 14 76.10
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 78.00
2001 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 16 74.912
2002 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 17 75.550
2013 Simone Biles Bannon’s 16 120.450
2014 Simone Biles World Champions 17 122.550
2015 Simone Biles World Champions 18 124.100

 

Women’s Vault Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 19.525
1986 Joyce Wilborn North Stars Gymnastics 16 19.425
1993 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 16 9.581
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.750
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.800
2003 Annia Hatch Stars 24 9.650
2004 Annia Hatch Stars 25 9.625
2009 Kayla Williams Gym Nest 16 29.075
2014 Simone Biles World Champions 17 31.025
2015 Simone Biles World Champions 18 31.550

 

Women’s Uneven Bars Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1992 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 15 9.812
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.900
1995 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 18 9.912
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.912
2002 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 17 9.450
2004 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 19 9.650
2012 Gabrielle Douglas Chow’s Gymnastics 16 31.300

 

Women’s Balance Beam Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 18.775
1986 Angie Denkins Will-Moor 17 18.850
1990 Betty Okino Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 9.825
1993 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 16 9.687
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.850
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.862
2001 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 16 9.525
2015 Simone Biles World Champions 18 30.700

 

Women’s Floor Exercise Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Dianne Durham Karolyi’s Gymnastics 15 19.375
1993 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 14 9.912
1994 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 17 9.925
1995 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 18 9.900
1996 Dominique Dawes Hill’s Angels 19 9.900
2002 Tasha Schwikert GymCats 17 9.400
2003 Ashley Postell Capital 17 9.450
2010 Mattie Larson All Olympia 18 30.350
2014 Simone Biles World Champions 17 31.150

 

Men’s All-Around Champions

 Year Name Club Age Score
2012 John Orozco U.S.O.T.C. 19 184.850

 

Men’s Floor Exercise Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1977 Ron Galimore Louisiana State University 18
1979 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 20 19.300
1980 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 21 19.550
1988 Charles Lakes California Sun 25 19.550
2009 Joshua Dixon Stanford University 20 31.000  

 

Men’s Still Rings Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
2015 Donnell Whittenburg Team Hilton/USOTC 20 32.000

 

Men’s Vault Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1977 Ron Galimore Louisiana State University 18
1979 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 20 19.450
1980 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 21 19.500
1981 Ron Galimore Iowa State University 22 9.725
2005 Sean Golden Houston Gymnastics Academy 22 19.425
2007 Sean Golden Houston Gymnastics Academy 24 31.850
2014 Donnell Whittenburg USOTC 20 30.950

 

Men’s Parallel Bars Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1992 Jair Lynch Stanford University 20 9.900
1993 Chainey Umphrey University of California-Los Angeles 23 9.525
1996 Jair Lynch Stanford University 24 9.762

 

Men’s Horizontal Bar Champions

Year Name Club Age Score
1983 Mario McCutcheon Southern Connecticut State University 25 19.575
1992 Jair Lynch Stanford University 20 9.925
2014 John Orozco USOTC 21 31.850

 

Rhythmic Gymnastics
Ribbon Event
1990   Ingrid Knight (Cohee)

And then the lone Rhythmic National Event Champion! Ingrid Knight (Cohee).  I have known Ingrid for many years since when I was the coach at the United National International School. The photo of her is from those Nationals and includes Lori Fung, her coach, and the 1984 Olympic Champion, USA National Team Member, Charlene Edwards, my teammate from Detroit, and her Coach Magda.

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I was not able to go to the national Champs of T & T and Acrobatics – but will in the future!

Please take the time to watch the videos and links.

Angie Denkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79yheuMQl0w
Mattie Larson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn80km0qaUo
Ashley Postell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmYdyclNEJA
Joyce Wilborn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mMvmELyKOs
Kayla Williams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx3p28f4zzU

Josh Dixon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq4osvNnRZ0
Sean Golden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VXA2ZvFok4
Mario McCutcheon: https://youtu.be/fSlEf2q7UQw?t=10m
John Orozco: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/48452973#48452973
Donnell Whittenburg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EugHELBpis

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Individual Champions

NCAA_MensChamps

 

ncaamen

While it took more research and photos were more difficult to come by- this is still a very impressive list of the NCAA Men’s National Event Champions.

Many of the names we have profiled earlier this month, but there are seven gymnasts listed who are new to our project.

Today for Black Gymnasts in History we feature the individual men’s event NCAA Gymnastics Champions. Please do read more about each athlete.

All-Around
2007 Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, Oklahoma
2008 Casey Sandy, Penn State
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka57klL_HxE

High Bar
1978 Mel Cooley, Washington
1984 Charles Lakes, Illinois
1992 Jair Lynch, Stanford
2000 Michael Ashe, California
2001 Michael Ashe, California

Pommel Horse
1986 Curtis Holdsworth, UCLA

Parallel Bars
1993 Jair Lynch, Stanford
2004 Ramon Jackson, William & Mary
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHwDFuWCa1w

Vault
1964 Sidney Oglesby, Syracuse
1976 Sam Shaw, Cal State Fullerton
1978 Ron Galimore, LSU
1979 Leslie  “Les” Moore, Oklahoma
1980 Ron Galimore, Iowa State
1981 Ron Galimore, Iowa State

Floor Exercise
1977 Ron Galimore, LSU
1988 Chris Wyatt, Temple

Wendy

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Black Gymnasts in History: Sid Oglesby

NCAA_Men

Sid Oglesby

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

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

Sid Oglesby NCAA Champ

And the story does not stop there – Sid went on to become a highly respected public official.

Another important find is that 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:
http://www.syracuse.com/empire/index.ssf/2015/12/how_a_5_bet_led_syracuses_sid_oglesby_to_a_life_confronting_races_ugly_head.html

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

Wendy

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