Legendary gymnastics champion Dianne Durham died on Thursday at the age of 52, according to family members who were by her side.
Durham is one of the greatest gymnasts to ever come out of the United States and was the first Black woman to win USA Gymnastics national championship in 1983, according to The Associated Press.
“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. Our thoughts are with her friends and family during this difficult time,” said USA Gymnastics president Li Li Leung in a statement to The Associated Press.
Her husband said he was by her side when she passed.
“Dianne Durham, the love of my life, passed away today. She stuck a triple full over the gates of heaven and was awarded with the biggest prize ever. She will be in heaven for eternity. I miss her, but know that she will be my guardian angel,” Durham’s husband, Tom Drahozal, said in a statement.
“Her sister Alice and I were by her side when she passed away peacefully. I love you with all my heart Dianne and will honor your memory for the rest of my life,” he added.
From Durham’s husband:
Dianne Durham the love of my life passed away today. She stuck a triple full over the gates of heaven and was awarded with the biggest prize ever. She will be in heaven for eternity. I miss her, but know that she will be my guardian angel. (1/2)
— The Medal Count (@TheMedalCount_) February 4, 2021
Drahozal spoke to The Associated Press about Durham’s life, touting her long legacy and decades of work in blazing a trail for Black gymnasts.
“I think between her and Mary Lou Retton, they felt they introduced more of a power gymnastics. Dianne was a pioneer for Black gymnasts as well…She paved the way for others. The door was open by Dianne,” Drahozal said.
Durham was a star gymnast and was slated to lead the 1984 Olympic team but injuries and the politics of the coaches of the team led to her being left off of the team after her national championship win.
“Unfortunately, she didn’t get into the Olympics because of politics. I think she’d come to terms with it. She was doing professional shows (when we met in 1992). But she had told me, ‘It was what it was, I can’t go back and redo it again,’” Drahozal told The Associated Press, calling for the USA Gymnastics leadership to put her into the Hall of Fame.
We are heartbroken to share the passing of gymnastics pioneer and icon Dianne Durham. Dianne was the first Black gymnast to capture a national all-around title and paved the way for generations of gymnasts who followed. Our thoughts are with her family. https://t.co/9LC8WzpRH6
— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) February 4, 2021