Black Girl Magic’s Legacy in Gymnastics Is Forever Cemented

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With 30 Olympic and World Championship medals combined, Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast in US history. Her success is the epitome of Black Girl Magic in sport.

Black Girl Magic is an actual skillset that grants Black women, girls, and femmes the ability to push against the boundaries of the dominant society while living within it (Jordan-Zachary and Harris 2017). Black Girl Magic is Simone Biles defying gravity, and landing skills (such as the Yurchenko) other gymnasts won’t even attempt.

This magic, however, is bound by the lived reality of Black girls in gymnastics in the US.

The first US Black gymnast qualified for the Olympics in 1980. However, Luci Collins didn’t have the opportunity to compete as those particular games were boycotted. Nevertheless, Collins’ making the team began a trajectory of starts and stoppages of US Black gymnasts on the national and Olympic stage.  

In 1983 Dianne Durham, the first Black national gymnastics champion inducted into the USGA hall of fame, was the first Black gymnast in the US to win the senior national championships with her all-around title. In 1992 Betty Okino and Dominque Dawes made team USA, becoming two of the first Black women to compete for team US in the Olympic Games. Then in 1996, as part of the ‘Magnificent Seven,’ Dawes become the first to win an individual medal (Bronze) for her floor routine. Even today, Dominque Dawes remains a notable name within the context of USA Gymnastics

Black gymnasts in the US have competed at various levels for a number of years, yet the number of those who have made it to the Olympic stage is small.

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