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Black Athletes That Changed Gymnastics & The World

In gymnastics, black athletes have long been performing at the highest level and accomplishing incredible feats for the sport. Now, more than ever, their presence needs to be lifted, and their achievements spotlighted.

In addition, you can learn, educate and act from reading online resources about the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s information on both the systemic, structural and institutional racism here in the UK as well as the police brutality and racism in America.

Ahead, read through and celebrate some of our stand out black athletes and their impact on gymnastics history. 

James Kanati Allen

James Kanati Allen

James was the first black gymnast to be named in an Olympic team in 1968. The same year that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. 

At a time when the Civil Rights Movement was making substantial steps in achieving equality, it was empowering to see James break into the American team. Following the games, he earned a PhD in physics from the University of Washington. He was a pioneer whose belief and dedication pathed the way for young black people to follow in his footsteps.   

Luci Collins 

Luci made history by becoming the first black female to make an Olympic team. She was set to represent the United States (US) but her qualification fell in 1980. Subsequently, this was when the US and many other countries boycotted the Moscow games due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Although it was a bitter pill to swallow, she had an illustrious career and inspired many black gymnasts to pursue their Olympic dreams.  

Jair Lynch & Dominique Dawes 

Jair & Dominique, both from the USA, had their names written in history as the first black male and female to win individual Olympic medals in gymnastics. This happened in 1996 on home soil at the Atlanta games. Jair took home silver on the parallel bars while Dominique earned bronze on the floor.

With the world watching, this was an incredible showcase of what black athletes can accomplish. Both have gone on to be role models and their stories will forever inspire future generations. 

Louis Smith 

Louis was the second black male gymnast to earn an individual Olympic medal in the 2008 Beijing games. While his bronze performance on pommel inspired black people all over the world, he also became a national treasure. He was the first Brit to win an Olympic medal since the women’s team in 1928. 

Including the 2008 Olympics, Louis secured 20 medals for Team GB and went on to gain celebrity status on shows such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. His legacy will continue to see many young black people aspire to succeed.

Louis Smith

Joe Fraser 

Joe became Great Britain’s first black male gymnasts to win a World Championships gold medal. His performance in Stuttgart 2019 made him the third Brit in history to be crowned as champion and the youngest to do it, aged just 21. 

Still a young man and having overcome injuries and anxieties, it’s incredible to think what else he will do to inspire and encourage more black gymnasts.

Simone Biles

Simone is the most decorated athlete in World Championship gymnastics history with 25 medals. While being no less than an exemplary in the arena, she has also become an influencer and instilled confidence into young black people online.

Having faced her own prejudice from internet trolls, Biles joined SK-II’s ‘Beauty is #NoCompetition’ campaign, which draws attention to the toxic role physical appearance often plays in women’s sports. Being part of this, especially while in a sport historically dominated by white and Asian athletes, makes her a truly inspiring ambassador in black culture. 

Simone Biles

We must recognise these exceptional black athletes who have enriched our sport and shown resilliance in a world still with so much racial discrimination. We must never forget those who fought for the simplest of civil rights and stand together today continuing to fight for an equal society.

As an inclusive community club, we encourage you to read, listen, watch and most importantly, ask questions and talk about what is going on with those around you.

Let us continue to learn and create a better tomorrow for all.


Mental health can affect us all from time to time but for some it’s a daily occurrence and can become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways to help subside the negative connotations and as a gymnastics club, we feel exercise plays a pivotal role in this.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve shared five tips on how participating in sport can calm your worries and clear your mind.

Relieves Tension

Taking part in sport can relax blood vessels, reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure. As well as having positive effects on your physical wellbeing, this will also result in a more relaxed mental wellbeing.

If you’re not feeling a work out, no worries. Meditating, stretching or even taking time out to breathe deeply for a few minutes a day can take away the tension.

Produces Endorphins

Any form of exercise will stimulate the body to produce chemicals called endorphins. These are released into the brain and give a feel-good sensation known as a “runners high”.

Aerobic work outs are the best for generating this natural pain killer – the more upbeat the work out, the better the feeling!

Increases Self-esteem

Whether part of a team or focused independently, you can improve self-esteem by working towards a goal. Whatever you achieve, from completing your first push up to winning a competition, can give you that feel good factor and encourages further goal breaking.

Start off by setting mini achievable targets and as you grow with confidence push yourself to break bigger barriers, both in sport and in life.

Improves sleep and creates better habits

We’re all guilty of not getting our 8 hours but this can lead to anxiety and sleep deprivation. This has knock on effects to everyday life as sleep is linked to your sense of well-being – the less you get, the worse you feel.

A regular exercise routine will push you to adopt healthier habits and encourages your body to yearn things that are good for it such as sleep, good food and water. As you overcome these healthy changes your body’s overall fitness continues to improve and becomes more effective at handling stress levels.


We’re better connected than ever but more and more of us are feeling lonely which can lead to depression. Socialising in an environment you feel comfortable in relieves stress by releasing a hormone called oxytocin which promotes relaxation.

Joining a team or club and surrounding yourself with people who have similar interests gives you the opportunity to make new friends. Even if it’s in a non-competitive setting, involvement has been associated with social acceptance which can be further nurtured though support from coaches and team members.

Pegasus Invitational Floor & Vault Competition 2020

On Sunday 8th March, WGC took a team of 19 gymnasts to the Pegasus Invitational Floor & Vault competition. 

This is one of the most inspiring events in our gymnasts’ calendars, as the venue is home to Team GB stars Courtney Tulloch and James Hall – how about that for some motivation!

First up in the arena and following in their idol’s footsteps were the boys. Louis Le Gac got the sqaud off to an Olympic start securing gold in the Men’s 2011 category. This came after two first place finishes on floor and vault. 

In the same category, Leo Thompson with a lion like performance joined his teammate on the podium with bronze and second place on the floor. Just behind Leo, Harry Marshallsay marshalled his way to 4thplace made up of a 2ndplace on vault and 3rd on floor. 

Then came Benjamin Corb in the 2011-12 category. He stormed the floor with a 3rdplace finish and ended the day by just missing out on the medals in 4th

Next up in the 2012-2013 category, Ollie Patrick and Nico Kriel went to battle together with Ollie bringing home the bronze and Nico challenging superbly for the podium in 4th

Eoin Robertson ended the morning triumphantly for the boys coming 2ndon vault and 3rdon floor, giving him and overall finish on the podium in third in the 2007 category. 

The afternoon saw the turn of the girls. In the Women’s 2006-08 category saw Milly Grim shone with silver while Aeryn Robertson had a solid performance earning a 6thplace rosette. 

Molly Wilkes and Natalie Keogh worked hard and picked up some valuable experience in the Women’s 2012 category with Molly securing 6thand Natalie picking up the 7thspot.

Also amongst the rosettes and gaining more competition minutes were Isla Hughes and Maya Kumorek who both came 7thin the Women’s 2011 category and had a fabulous day out. 

Up next in the Women’s 2008 category, Isabelle Rodgers had a strong finish in 5thand Chloë Thorpe was just ahead with a fantastic 4th

There were yet more rosettes for the girls with Zoë Gallagher and Zita Ridgett both securing 6thsuperbly in the 2009 category. 

Finishing the day stupendously by coming third on the vault, floor and overall was Charlotte Cook in the 2005-2007 category. Battling with her and bringing the competition to magical close was Eleanor Godden who took home the silver medal.

All the gymnasts have made us incredible proud and represented our community immensely. They can all walk away with their heads held high – it’s not easy to perform on your own in front of so many people and do it so well! 

Back to more fun in the gym and training for the next competition!