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Happy Black History Month: Figure Skating and Gymnastics Rewind (Part 1)

In an effort to reclaim Black History Month 2019, let’s reflect on those figure skaters and gymnasts who have inspired us over the years. These are some of my favorite routines from these wonderful athletes.

Debi Thomas

Debi Thomas is the first Black PERSON, of any ethnicity, to win a Winter Olympics medal. She also is the first Black Woman to win the US National Ladies’ Figure Skating Championship and the World Ladies’ Figure Skating Championship.


I feel like people forget or don’t know the doors Ms. Thomas opened for Black people and people of color in general. Put some respect on this woman’s name!

Betty Okino

If you ask who was the first Black American to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics, most folks would say Dominque Dawes. But, that’s only partially true. The first Black American to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics was Dominque Dawes AND Betty Okino. Both women were on the bronze medal winning 1992 US women’s gymnastics team in Barcelona.

Check out Betty on one of her best events. Sorry, I can’t edit out the Karolyis.

Tai Babilonia

Tai Babilonia partnered with Randy Gardner and became the first Black PERSON to compete for the US in figure skating. Also, when I was a toddler I used to pretend to be her with my pretend figure skating partner.

Surya Bonaly

I haven’t checked this to be sure, but I’m going to declare that Surya Bonaly is the first female figure skater to perform a back flip at the Olympics. Here is her iconic performance.

Dianne Durham

If you ask people about gymnastics in 1984 they will probably shout out “Mary Lou!” But, Dianne Durham was the 1983 US National Champion having bested Mary Lou (her training partner) that year. Ms. Durham became the first Black woman to win the US gymnastics national title.

Dominique Dawes

Last, but certainly not least, we end part 1 of this tribute post with Dominique Dawes. If there is a Grande Dame of USA gymnastics, I elect Dawes. She is among the greatest US gymnasts and certainly the one most responsible for influencing the likes of Gabrielle Douglas, Simone Biles, and many, many others.


Dominique Dawes is the first Black PERSON to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. Respect that!

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