Kim Hamilton Anthony was never your typical world-class gymnast; she wasn’t white, didn’t come from a middle- or upper-class family, and was labeled too tall to be a gymnast. The award-winning athlete shares her painful past and her journey to a purposeful life in her newly released autobiography, Unfavorable Odds.
While watching Nadia Comaneci perform in the ’76 Olympics, Anthony fell in love with gymnastics and began doing flips in her grandmother’s living room.
“She sent me outside since I was breaking things,” laughs Anthony.
“I taught myself how to tumble, do flips with no hands and started jumping off stairs,” she explains. “My mom got nervous and didn’t want me to get hurt, so we looked into finding a gym where I could take lessons and be safe.”
Anthony’s family did not have money for lessons, so as a young teen she and her parents would take turns cleaning the gym late at night after practice to earn money.
The lessons paid off. Anthony quickly advanced and was placed on an elite status team. To continue earning much-needed finances for the sport, Anthony and her parents found themselves working together again late into the night – this time working the coat check stand at a night club.
“At 1:00 a.m. I’d do a floor routine under the disco ball, showing the patrons my skills so they could see their money was being used for gymnastics lessons for a 12-year-old,” says Anthony.
The family didn’t own a car, so they walked home each night – a 10 mile trek.
“One night we raised $500 and put that money towards training, travel, leotards, and meet fees,” says Anthony.
Anthony’s father had issues with drug use and was employed on and off throughout her childhood. Anthony had dreams of going to college and was eventually recruited for UCLA’s gymnastics team, becoming their first African-American gymnastics champion.
Real-life tumbles at home
Growing up, Anthony’s father was in and out of her life.
“He had a drug dependency,” she explains. “He wasn’t able to be there for me. My parents divorced, [and] they were later remarried to each other. It was a volatile environment; he’d disappear, and he’d miss holidays.”
Anthony’s relationship with her father wreaked havoc on her childhood and her self-esteem.
At age six, Anthony’s father taught her how to roll joints. By age 13, she found herself in the homes of drug dealers, following their step-by-step instructions on making cocaine.
“I thought if I could show my daddy I knew how to do that, I’d have value to him. I didn’t know all the legal aspects and other ramifications that came with drug use.”
Anthony started doing drugs on occasion so she would fit in and gain acceptance from her dad.
“I felt I didn’t have value in his life and I began to resent him; I didn’t want to be around him. My mom wanted a two-parent household, even though it was such a volatile situation.”
While Kim was at UCLA, her parents split up again.
Time for reconciliation
In January of 2009, Anthony began writing the book that she had thought about for years. During her prayer time with God, she felt the Lord impress upon her that it was time to reconcile with her Dad.
“I had been trying to call him over the years on holidays and special occasions, but never heard back from him,” she says.
“It took a month of praying and talking to God about it. In the fall of 2009, I went to Richmond to see my dad. God was working on my heart and my resentment eventually turned to forgiveness,” she shares.
“I wanted him to know how his behavior affected my childhood and how it still affected me as an adult. He never denied anything; he owned up to everything. He said he loved me and didn’t fully understand his past behavior himself.”
Anthony’s father was stunned when she told him she’d still choose him to be her father.
Anthony says she and her father hugged after that meeting and she felt great joy and a huge burden lifted from her shoulders. She credits God for the reconciliation and feels writing her book provided great therapy for her.
Marriage and more
Anthony’s experience at UCLA not only gave her a wonderful education and athletic career, it is the place where she met her future husband and began a relationship with Christ.
Football player Corwin Anthony shared the Gospel with his future wife during her sophomore year at UCLA. He talked to her about how much God loved her and how she could invite Christ into her heart.
“I was amazed to learn that God had a plan for my life and that He cared for me and He loved me! I always thought I was a mistake.”
Kim and Corwin’s relationship was on and off before they finally married in March 1992. They have two boys and serve as Chaplains for the Miami Dolphins.
Corwin Anthony works with Athletes in Action and is the National Director of Pro Ministries, where he oversees and places chaplains in the NFL.
Kim has a clear message in her book and in her speaking engagements that she wants the world to know–no matter what your circumstances are, God can help you through great pain and give you a higher purpose.
For more, see www.unfavorableodds.com