A Celebration of African-American Gymnasts
Loop21 Covers Racial Diversity in the Olympics
Gabby Douglas is the latest black athlete to defy stereotypes by competing in a sport not known for its racial diversity: gymnastics. Here is a look back at other successful black gymnasts through the years.
In 1978 Hilliard became the first African-American on the U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics National team, serving as co-captain twice during her tenure. She went on to coach 1996 Olympian Aliane Baquerot and to be awarded the 2011 Rings of Gold Award from the U.S. Olympic Committee for her work to make the sport of gymnastics accessible to as many children as possible through the Wendy Hilliard Foundation.
After becoming the U.S. champion in the floor exercise in 1977, 1979 and 1980 and the vault in 1979, 1980 and 1981, Galimore made the U.S. Olympics team in 1980. Unfortunately he would never get the chance to compete. The United States was among the countries that participated in a boycott of that year’s games, held in Moscow.
Due to the 1980 boycott that sidelined Galimore, Lakes became the first black gymnast to compete in an Olympic Games, in 1988 in Seoul where he would become the highest placing U.S. gymnast, coming in 19th.
Born in Uganda, Okino was raised in the U.S. and would help the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win its first-ever Olympic medal, a bronze at the 1992 games. Okino pioneered two moves, a triple pirouette on the balance beam and a unique dismount from the uneven bars, both of which are now officially named in the gymnastics Code of Points guide, in her honor.
After finishing sixth on the parallel bars at the 1992 Summer Olympics, Lynch won a silver medal for his performance on the bars at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Umphrey was a member of the 1996 U.S. Men’s gymnastics team, which finished fifth all around, one of the team’s highest ever showings. His brother Greg was also a collegiate level gymnast.
As one of only a handful of Olympic gymnasts to participate in three separate Olympic games and simultaneously win medals as part of three separate Olympics teams, Dawes is the most decorated American gymnast in the history of the sport. She was on the 1992 team that won a bronze medal in Barcelona, and the 1996 team nicknamed “The Magnificent 7” for winning gold. After Olympic officials stripped China of its 2000 Olympic medal for allowing underage gymnasts to compete, Dawes and her fellow team members were awarded a bronze medal, a decade after the games. She now co-chairs the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, along with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Schwikert, who is biracial, was also a member of the 2000 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team that earned a bronze medal, albeit one awarded belatedly. She also won two NCAA individual all-around titles, while representing UCLA in competition.
After winning a silver medal for her performance on the balance beam at the 2010 U.S. Junior Championships and a standout performance on the uneven bars at that’s Pan American Games, Douglas became a member of the U.S. team that competed at the 2011 World Championships. Thanks to appearances on the covers of TIME and Sports Illustrated magazines, Douglas is making one of the most highly anticipated Olympics debuts of any athlete competing in 2012 Summer Games.