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.