Dianne Durham paved the way for other Black gymnasts across the country. Now four months after her death, she is being recognized for her contributions to the sport.
"It’s so rewarding that she’s finally got the recognition that she deserved,” said Tom Drahozal, Durham's husband. “It’s so sad that she won’t be there to pick up her own award.”
Drahozal described the moment as bittersweet after learning in May that his wife was going to be inducted into the USA Gymnastics 2021 Hall of Fame.
“She never thought this day would come when she was still alive,” he said. “So for her, if she were alive to see it happen, that would be the first thing she would have said, that I can’t believe this actually happened.”
Durham took the gymnastics world by storm in the early 1980s. She made history by becoming the first Black gymnast to win the all-around national title in 1983 along with three gold medals in other events. The following year she had her eyes set on the Olympics.
“Her getting hurt at the Olympic trials, that wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t able to finish that meet,” said Drahozal. “She got injured and she had been assured by people at the meet, don’t worry about finishing the meet. Don’t risk further injury, that way you’ll be healthy for the Olympics. You’ve done enough for this country, your record speaks for itself. You’ll be on the Olympic team.”
But she didn’t get a spot on the women’s gymnastic team. Durham retired at the age of 17 and went on to coach the next generation of gymnasts. Decades later, members of the 1984 Olympic Women’s Gymnastic Team would push for her induction into the Hall of Fame.
“The footprint of what she did is going to continue on for a long time. The impact she made, I don’t think anybody expected it in 1983 when she won that championship,” he said. “You look today as far as African American gymnastic dominates the U.S. national team pretty much. Simon Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time.”
Durham’s husband and sister will accept the posthumous award in her honor. Drahozal has been preparing a speech for the special moment. The ceremony will take place in St. Louis during the same weekend of the Olympic Team Trials at Enterprise Center.