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Dianne Durham, first Black USA Gymnastics champion, dies at 52

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Dianne Durham, the first Black woman to win a USA Gymnastics national championship and a trailblazer in the sport, died Thursday after a short illness, her husband said. She was 52.

Durham died at a Chicago hospital, with her husband, Tom Drahozal, and her sister, Alice, at her side.

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"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, born in Gary, Ind., was a pioneer in American gymnastics. She dominated the 1983 national championships, capturing the all-around title en route to four gold medals (balance beam, floor exercise and vault) and a silver medal (uneven bars).

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In doing so, Durham became the first Black gymnast to earn the title of U.S. all-around champion.

"We are heartbroken to learn of Dianne's passing," USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung said in a statement Thursday. "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.

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"Our thoughts are with her friends and family during this difficult time."

After stepping away from competition, Durham remained active in the sport as a judge and coach. She was inducted into the Region 5 Hall of Fame in 2017.

Durham is survived by her husband and sister, her father, Ural Durham, niece Allison Woods and nephew Mike Woods Jr.

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