Memorial held for Dianne Durham, 1st Black US women's gymnastics champion, who died in February

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Sunday, November 7, 2021
Memorial held for 1st Black US women's gymnastics champion
A memorial for Dianne Durham, first Black women's gymnastics champion front runner for the 1984 Olympics, was held after the COVID pandemic's height.

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- There was a tribute Saturday to the late champion gymnast Dianne Durham.

She was the first Black woman to win a U.S. national championship. The Gary native died at 52 years old earlier this year after a short illness.

Her family did not hold a memorial because of the pandemic, but loved ones finally came together to celebrate and honor her on Saturday. Durham's family, friends and former teammates gathered at West Side High school in Gary to reflect on the impact she made on the world of gymnastics.

"When people recognized Dianne, she was truly flattered that they knew who she was," said friend Linda McDonald. "She was, is and always will be gymnastics greatness."

Durham won her national championship in 1983 at 15 years old. She was considered one of the best gymnasts in the world. She was a front runner for the 1984 Olympic team, but an injury kept her out of the games. Her teammates recalled her being competitive and compassionate.

"When we would be on the floor competing, there was never a sense of competing against each other," said former gymnast Angela Denkins. "It was always being there for each other."

Many in gymnastics thought Durham made her own lasting mark on the sport by paving the way for other Black women. Durham died in February and many of her teammates lobbied to have her inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"I'm so sorry that she didn't see herself inducted into Hall of Fame, but I hope somewhere, she understands how revered and respected she was by all of us," said former gymnast Tracy Talavera.