Happy Black History Month, gymternet! Here’s a small tribute to just some of the amazing black women who have represented the USA. Many of them have, and continue to, create diversity and a place in this sport for women of color not just on the national stage but internationally as well. All of these women have contributed immensely to the sport of gymnastics, and gymnastics is a better and more inclusive sport due to their hard work. Collectively, these eight gymnasts here have won a total of 38 World and Olympic Medals, 17 of them gold. I’m looking forward to that number growing even higher in the next year.
Betty Okino was a member of the 1992 Olympic Team, and was the first African American gymnast to win a World individual medal, which was a bronze on the balance beam in 1991. Betty also has a move on the balance named after her: an incredibly difficult triple turn.
Dominique Dawes is the only U.S. female gymnast that is a three time Olympian, and has a total of eight World/Olympic medals. As a member of the Magnificent Seven that won the U.S. it’s first Olympic Team Gold in 1996, Dominique became the first African-American gymnast to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
Tasha Schwikert was an Olympic team member in 2000, a two-time National Champion, and was a major part of the USA’s “rebuilding phase” after the disappointment at the 2000 Olympic games, and contributed to the USA’s first World Team Gold medal in 2003.
Ashley Postell was the 2002 World Champion on the balance beam. Ashley went on to have a stellar NCAA career, garnering three perfect 10′s and finishing in the top three of the NCAA All Around all four years of her collegiate career.
Annia Hatch, originally born in Cuba, Annia became a U.S. citizen in 2002. After making the World team in 2003, Annia tore her ACL and made an incredible comeback to make the 2004 Olympic team, where she competed on vault, contributing to Team USA’s silver medal finish as well as winning the silver medal on the vault during the event final.
Kayla Williams went from a JO gymnast, to an elite gymnast, to National Team Member, to World Team Member, to becoming the 2009 World Champion on the vault in a matter of a few months. Kayla went on to have a successful collegiate career in NCAA gymnastics, where she graduated in 2015.
Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas became the first ever African American woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic All Around. She is also the first reigning Olympic All Around Champion to make a return appearance at a World Championships and medal in the all around since 1981. Currently, Gabby is looking to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, and if successful, would be the first reigning Olympic All Around champion to return to the Olympics since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.
Simone Biles is currently the reigning World All Around Champion and the most decorated American gymnast of all time in terms of World medals. She is the first African American World All Around Champion, the first female gymnast to win three consecutive World All Around titles, and with ten gold medals she has the most World gold medals of all time. She is already considered to be one of the greatest female gymnasts ever, and she hasn’t even been to the Olympics yet. Currently, Simone is the hands-down favorite to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, and is expected to be in contention for several gold medals.