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.

Uckfield Floor & Vault Competition 2019

After a term of training focusing on routines and vaulting, Worthing Gymnastics Club took a squad of 27 gymnasts to the Uckfield Intermediate & Novice Floor & Vault Competition for the the first competition of the year.

Round 2

WGC’s day opened in Round 2 with zippy Zoe Gallagher just missing out on the medals with a 5thplace rosette in the 2009 novice girls.

Round 3 

Next came Round 3 and a flurry of medals from the boys and girls of Worthing. 

Max Reeves revelled in glory while his teammate Benjamin Corbhad the crowd saying “Cor-blimey!” in the 2011-2012 novice boys which saw Max pick up a glorious gold and Benjamin bounce to a booming bronze. 

They were swiftly followed by two more medals in the 2008 novice boys with heroic Harvey Lloyd gaining gold and Hugo stupendous Szaniawski with a sizzling silver. 

In the 2005-2006 novice girls, Jessie triumphant Titmarsh and Caitlin whizzy Whittington put in stellar performances and marginally missed out on the medals with 4thand 5thplace spots. It was much of the same for Milly Grim who put in a far from grim performance coming 4thin the 2008 novice girls. 

The 2007 novice girls saw four of our gymnasts competing and encouraging one another to reach the top three spots which Charlotte Moore put in a Moore than good performance finishing the day in second place. Her teammates close and took home some brilliant experience with the amazing Amelie Crutlow in 4th, Holly macaroni Richards in 6thand the astounding Aeryn Robertson in 7th– great work girls! 

Back to the boys in round three and to some of our youngsters who made it look like they’ve been on the scene for years! Ollie Patrick took home the gold and Leyton Jones joined him by bagging silver in the 2012 novice 4-hour boys. 

Two more of our boys found themselves amongst the medals with jazzy Jasper Andrews earning a solid silver and Samuel Parfoot on par for the bronze in the novice 2009-2010 boys. 

Round 4

If the start of the day was anything to go by then we were in store for a smashing afternoon…and it started superbly in the 2010-2011 intermediate boys with Angus Rolfe rolling to the top of the podium with gold. 

Zita Ridgett was far from rigid in the 2009 intermediate girls and also found herself at the top of the podium while her teammate Ruby marvellous Miles earned an 8thplace rosette in a closely competed group. 

The medals continued to fly in during round four with a valiant effort from Théodore Valantin who secured silver in the 2009 intermediate 4-hour boys and Charlie Kriel absolutely Kreiling it with gold in the 2009 intermediate 2-hour boys. 

Then, in the 2008 intermediate girls, Isabelle Rodgers replied “Rodger” to head coach Heather after asking her to bring back bronze and saw herself pickup 3rdspot.

Round 5

The final round of the day saw even more medals! 

Thomas Beddoe put the opposition to bed with a far from sleepy performance and gained gold in the 2006-2008 intermediate boys but that said, Jamie Miles wasn’t miles behind and earned a brilliant bronze.

In the final group of the day three Worthing gymnasts were seen up against each other in the 2007-2008 intermediate boys. Nayan Ransley ran away with gold, Oscar Chandler battled his way to bronze and Edward Nealon nearly got amongst the medals in 5th

What a day for WGC! Thanks to all the gymnasts, coaches and parents – your combined efforts helped us have an unbelievable day. Aside from the medals, all the gymnasts have taken away some excellent experience and gained some worthwhile confidence.

Thanks to Uckfield Gymnastics Club for putting on the event and having us!