Dianne Durham, the first Black national champion, finally inducted into USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame

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Dianne Durham, seen here at the 1983 national championships, is finally being inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Durham, the first Black woman to win a title in the sport, died in February. (AP/Lisa Genesen)
Dianne Durham, seen here at the 1983 national championships, is finally being inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Durham, the first Black woman to win a title in the sport, died in February. (AP/Lisa Genesen)

Nearly four decades after she became the first Black gymnast to claim a senior national championship, USA Gymnastics is finally inducting Dianne Durham into its Hall of Fame.

Durham, the organization announced on Friday, is joining the 2021 Hall of Fame class with four other individuals and the 2004 U.S. men’s Olympic Team. Jim Aamodt, Rebecca Bross, Chris Estrada and Gene Watson round out the class, which will be inducted on June 26.

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Durham died in February at 52 after an unspecified “brief illness,” according to The New York Times.

"While our community continues to mourn Dianne's passing, her trailblazing legacy lives on each day in gyms across the country," USA Gymnastics president Li Li Leung said in a statement, via ESPN. "We could not be more pleased that the Hall of Fame Committee has chosen to memorialize Dianne's significant and lasting contribution to our sport in this special way."

The first Black national champion

Durham won two consecutive junior national titles before she entered the senior national championship in 1983, when she was just 15 years old.

The then-4-foot-7 teenager crushed the event to win the title with ease — she won gold medals on the vault, balance beam and floor exercise — which made her the first Black national gymnastics champion in American history.

“Do you know that didn't go through my head one time?" Durham said last year of being the first Black champion, via ESPN. "Not one time. Do you know how many people had to tell me that? I could not understand why that was such a humongous deal."

Naturally, that made her a strong favorite to make the 1984 Olympic team for the Los Angeles Games. Durham, however, sprained her ankle after a rough vault landing at the Olympic trials and eventually withdrew. Per the Washington Post, Durham was just 0.24 points shy of qualifying for the team.

Durham then retired from competition, and started coaching out of her gym in the Chicago area and working as a national-level judge.

Durham was inducted into the U.S. gymnastics regional hall of fame in 2017. She “passed peacefully” in February after a short illness, her husband Tom Drahozal, told ESPN.

"Dianne loved gymnastics no matter what," her husband, Tom Drahozal, told ESPN. "But after what happened in 1984, even though she loved it, she always felt part of the community didn't love her as much as she loved the sport. She felt like the powers that be didn't value her contribution to the sport."

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