In response to recent news of the passing of Dianne Durham, there have been a wave of condolences from those who were fortunate enough to have crossed paths with her. Equally as impressive as Dianne’s gymnastics resume were the countless “Dianne Durham stories” from those who met her and felt Dianne left a positive experience etched into their memory. Memories they now wanted to share.
In one story, Dianne Durham struck up a conversation with a pair of strangers in a Chicago pizza shop. After learning that they were gymnastics fans, Dianne informed them that today was Nadia’s birthday. Dianne then proceeded to place a call to Nadia Comaneci herself from the pizza shop, allowing two random gymnastics fans to leave a birthday greeting on Nadia’s answering machine.
Stories like the above reflect who Dianne Durham was, and the lasting legacy she left behind. But one story that had gained considerable traction was a visit Dianne made in 1983 to Kentucky to train alongside young aspiring gymnasts. Photos from this trip had been posted to Facebook and gained enough traction to catch the attention of a politician.
The politician in question was Tina Bojanowski who is a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Tina Bojanowski was a coach/owner of the very gym Dianne visited. The above photo features Dianne with one of her gymnasts. Tina used her time on the floor chamber to honor Dianne Durham. In doing so, Bojanowski manage to insert phrases like “Apparatus Finals” and “Tsukahara” into the official record as she recapped Dianne Durham’s career.
The six minute speech included mentions of Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci, and Carly Patterson. Bojanowski even pointed out that Dianne had beaten Mary Lou Retton for the 1983 All-Around title at the U.S. National Championships. The speech honored the sport both with the awareness it brought to Dianne’s story, but also recapping events only in a way that was true to history. Bojanowski had gone out of her way to mention that before Dianne Durham, it was Luci Collins who had been paving the way for black gymnasts.
Dianne Durham was given a citation which is included in this article with the image at the bottom. But the citation also made the following statement and didn’t mince words in regards to the 1984 controversy.
“Despite being more than qualified, Ms. Durham was denied a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 due to a dramatic and confusing sequence of events, some related to the prevailing prejudices of the times.”