Dianne Durham, the first Black woman to win a USA Gymnastics national championship, passed away on Thursday (Feb. 4) after suffering from an illness, according to her husband, Tom Drahozal.
Durham passed away at a Chicago hospital with her husband and sister by her side. She was 52 years old. “She passed peacefully,” Drahozal told ESPN. “She was the love of my life and everything I could have asked for. She was as beautiful a person away from gymnastics as she was within the sport.”
Durham was a pioneer in the gymnastics world. While she was just a teenager, she won the 1983 national championship and became the first Black woman to win in the organization’s history.
“People said, ‘You’re the first Black’ — I’m using ‘Black’ because ‘African American’ wasn’t a term in my era — ‘national champion.’ Do you know that didn’t go through my head one time?” Durham told ESPN last year. “Not one time. Do you know how many people had to tell me that? I could not understand why that was such a humongous deal.”
That win ushered her and her coaches onto the national stage. Durham’s journey to the Olympics was cut short during the 1984 trials. She then took a job coaching in Houston before relocating to Chicago. There, she met her husband and became a national-level judge, coach and gym owner.
“We are heartbroken to learn of Dianne’s passing,” USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung said in a statement to ESPN. “As an icon and trailblazer in our sport, Dianne opened doors for generations of gymnasts who came after her and her legacy carries on each day in gyms across the country.”
The REVOLT team would like to send our thoughts and prayers out to Durham’s family and friends. May she rest in peace.