Elite gymnastics champion Dianne Durhan joins GTC staff

2014-04-25T17:00:00Z 2014-04-25T20:35:15Z Elite gymnastics champion Dianne Durhan joins GTC staffJohn Burbridge, (219) 933-3371

LIBERTY TWP. | Dianne Durham didn't have posters of Nadia Comaneci or Olga Korbut gracing her bedroom walls.

No. The reason she and her sister got into gymnastics was because they were on the verge of tearing down the walls.

"We were always jumping around destroying the furniture and our home," Durham said, "so my dad got us into gymnastics. I was only 3 years old at the time.

"I know of the importance of role models in sports, but I can't say there was a gymnast I looked up to as someone I tried to be like. I only wanted to be myself."

Even as her own person, Gary native Durham is linked with some of the sport's most famous dignitaries.

Some time after legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi discovered Comaneci in Romania, Karolyi defected to the United States and soon discovered Durham, who was the first elite gymnast he trained in America.

"You can call him the 'Bobby Knight of gymnastics coaches,'" Durham said of Korolyi. "He was an intense person. Did that mean he got in my face, tried to make me cry ... tried to humiliate me? No. He wasn't that way at all.

"But he knew how to correct a problem, and he was very assertive. As for myself, I knew what I was getting into. You don't travel all the way to Houston (to train with Karolyi) from Gary if you're not serious about this."

Durham has recently joined the staff at Gymnastics at The Courts (GTC) within the Courts of Northwest Indiana.

"I feel great being back in the region coaching again," said Durham, 45, of Chicago. "(April 16) is officially my first day, but I've done clinics here before, so a lot of people here already know me."

Under the tutelage of Karolyi, Durham won back-to-back United States Junior Elite National Championships in 1981 and 1982 before winning the Senior Elite National Championships in 1983.

Injuries at the 1983 World Championships and the subsequent Olympic Trials prevented her from competing at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

"Let me turn the question on to you ... 'How would you feel about missing out on the Olympics?'" Durham said. "Naturally, I was devastated. But my parents were right there for me.

"Gymnastics is the greatest sport in the world as far I'm concerned. Olympics are a big part of it, but there is so much more than just that. It teaches you so many things that will help you for the rest of your life. I feel so blessed with all I've gotten out of gymnastics."

After retiring from competition, Durham coached under Karolyi for several years in Texas before running her own gymnastics facility, Skyline Gymnastics, in Chicago for 17 years.

"Is my coaching style similar to Bela's?" Durham repeated a question while shrugging her shoulders. "I can't really answer that. I've learned a lot from him, but as a coach I developed my own style. Again, it's me being myself and not trying to be anyone else."

In addition to Karolyi, there were other coaches who impacted Durham's life.

"I remember Wanda from 'Wanda's Gymnastics' ... my first coach, God bless her soul," Durham said of the late Wanda Tomasi-Mohoi, who ran a gymnastics school in Merrillville. "(Karolyi) had someone do the choreography for all his gymnasts' floor routines, but he was willing to fly Wanda all the way to Houston to do my choreography."

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