Trailblazing gymnast Dianne Durham, who passed away this spring, was memorialized on November 6 with services held in northwest Indiana.
According to The (Northwest Indiana) Times, Durham died on February 4 at the age of 52 amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and couldn’t be memorialized at the time.
The gymnast’s friends, family, and past teammate gymnasts all came together at West Side to honor the gymnast on Saturday.
Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton was in attendance and spoke some kind words of her friend, calling her the “best competition.”
“One of several gymnasts to send video or written messages, Retton wrote, “You are truly missed. Dianne was about living life to the fullest. That’s what she always did.”
Four members of the 1984 U.S. women’s gymnastics team were also in attendance at the program, which featured speeches from friends, fellow competitors, and Durham’s students. The gymnasts who spoke in person or virtually included Bart Conner, Wendy Hilliard, Simone Biles, Tracee Talavera, and Nadia Comaneci.
Durham’s husband, Tom Drahozal, said, “She was a trailblazer as a gymnast, but even more important was her personality,” Drahozal said. “So many people have called to say that, besides gymnastics, they respect who she was as a person.”
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Drahozal hopes folks can remember “her accomplishments and the role she played in gymnastics and as a person in general. A life lived so happily deserves a happy remembrance.”
In 1983, she won the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships and became the first American woman to execute a full-twisting layout Tsukahara on a vault.
At the McDonalds International Gymnastics Championships that same year, Durham won the all-around title, surpassing friend Retton.
Unfortunately, she later sustained injuries that crushed Durham’s Olympic dreams and prevented her from competing in the 1983 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
Durham was expected to make the Olympic team in 1984 and would have been the first black gymnast to compete for the U.S. at the Olympics.
However, Durham injured her ankle on the vault and was forced to withdraw from the competition.
She retired from gymnastics the following year and became a coach for the Károlyis and at the University of Illinois in Chicago.