The Black Gymnasts Who Broke Barriers, Before Simone And Gabby, There Was Wendy Hilliard

It’s a heartbreaking and tragic time for U.S.A. Gymnastics. These courageous athletes have proven how strong they are, on and off the mat. Another courageous gymnast, Wendy Hilliard, the first black rhythmic gymnast to compete on a U.S. national team.

Before there was Simone Biles, the first black female athlete to win gold in the all-around gymnastics competition, and Gabby Douglas, the first ever black woman to be crowned Olympic individual all-around champion, there was Wendy Hilliard. Hilliard was a member of the U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team for a record setting nine times, but early in her career she had to fight for her spot on the team.

In 1983, Wendy was denied a spot on the World Championship Group Routine. The coach said that she stood out too much for the synchronized routine because of her appearance.

In 1983, Wendy was denied a spot on the World Championship Group Routine. The coach said that she stood out too much for the synchronized routine because of her appearance. Wendy challenged the decision and U.S.A. Gymnastics then selected the team based on the ranking from the National Championships which allowed Wendy to participate in her third World Championship. It was the pivotal incident that set the stage for her long career as an advocate for an athlete’s right to compete.

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20 years ago, motivated by the lack of diversity and opportunities in gymnastics and after training her athlete, Aliane Baquerot Wilson, for the 1996 Olympics, Hilliard launched the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (WHGF) – a not-for-profit organization based in Harlem, NY that provides free and low-cost quality gymnastics programs to urban youth.

With that kind of an incredible history of commitment Wendy Hilliard gets a 10!

Photo (l to r): Wendy Hilliard, Billie Jean King and Borough President Gale Brewer via source.

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