In 1978, Wendy Hilliard became the first black woman to earn a spot on the US national rhythmic gymnastics team. Hilliard served as team captain for two years, and following her retirement in 1998 spent four years as team coach. From 1995 to 1997, Hilliard served as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, the first black woman to hold the position.
Shoutout to Ashton Locklear of the United States for being the first Native American woman to bring home gold medals (uneven bars and team) from an international gymnastics competition. In addition to her success at the Pan-American Games, 16 year old Lumbee Tribe member was also a member of USA’s gold-winning World Championship Team.
With a mix of races and ethnicities—black, white, Latina, Jewish—this was easily the most diverse group of women to represent USA gymnastics at the Olympics. And while each woman was selected for her ability and potential to medal, that doesn’t change the fact that seeing the different faces on this year’s team is important and also pretty damn cool.
I’m so effing exciting to watch these ladies compete, and I’m even more excited for the little kids who get to have them as their role models.