Kim Anthony: My Story
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- Unfavorable Odds Podcast: Kim Anthony knows something about finding hope in the face of unfavorable odds and finds others to share their stories.
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Author & sports reporter Kim Anthony grew up with scarring realities. She relates a life story of unfavorable odds—and the moment that changed everything.
Kim Anthony: My Story
Kim: For 18 or 19 years of my life—up until that point—I was told that I was a mistake; I was treated like I was a mistake; and I had believed it. So now, here I am, learning about this God who loves me and who created me on purpose for a purpose. I'm realizing that my value is not based on my athletic accomplishments or anything else but the fact that God loves me and created me on purpose.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Okay, Ann, I’ve got a question. I don't think I've ever asked you, and I have no idea what you're going to say; but I hope you say the right thing.
Ann: Oh, no.
Dave: It's unrelated to anything—but of the toughest position in all sports—what would you say is the most difficult position to play?
Ann: You mean what sport?
Dave: It could be a team sport; it could be an individual sport.
Ann: Hands down, gymnastics.
Dave: No; I thought you're going to say quarterback.
Ann: way harder than any position in football, basketball.
Dave: I really thought you were going to give me some props and say
Ann: Oh, sorry.
Dave: it's quarterback. There was an article/I read an article
Ann: —it’s the quarterback position.
Dave: Yes; a couple of years ago, I read an article; and that was the title: “Toughest Position in All of Sport.” It said: “Is it a goalie in hockey?” “Is it hitting a curveball in Major League Baseball?” Is it?—they concluded the toughest position/scariest position was quarterback, because you're leading a team; you have to deal with the media. If you win, you're the greatest; if you lose, you… I remember sitting here—you know, [thinking back] as a college quarterback—I'm like, “Yes; you know, it takes a man to play that.”
But here's why I ask you that—because I think what you said has got to be scarier; I cannot imagine—I think it's a woman gymnast on the balance beam.
Ann: Oh, you're sayingeven I was going to say, someone that competes in the all-around, because you have to be good in four different events—but yes, if you're going to the specific.
Dave: Well, I've stood on a balance beam before; and I'm like, “There's no way you're flipping and landing on thiswhat?—six inches?
Dave: Four inches?—it's even better! [Laughter]
You might have heard that voice over there. Kim Anthony is with us today. And first of all, let me say, “Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Kim.”
Kim: Thank you; it's good to be here with you both.
Dave: Our audience doesn't know this—but they're going to know now—you are a six-time All American woman gymnast at UCLA, back in the day.
Kim: Yes; way back in the day.
Dave: So you know; you've got to be thinking the balance beam or all around, right? You agree with Ann? Ann was a gymnast as well. I'm sitting here with two women gymnasts. I mean, would you say it is one of the most difficult?
Kim: I would think so, yes.
Kim: The sport in general is so dangerous; oh, my goodness. [Laughter] You have to start when you were little, when you don't realize how dangerous it is. But gymnastics is a sport where, even just being slightly off, can cause severe injury. People don't realize that.
A lot of people were talking about Simone Biles, and what happened at the Olympics, and how she needed to toughen it up. I'm thinking, “You know what? Do you realize this woman's life is in danger? She did the wisest thing she could by saying, ‘You know what? I'm not ready; I need to step away.’” I don't think people realize how critical that was, because it could have literally saved her life.
Ann: Well, Kim is pretty remarkable; because she was also a four-time national champion.
Dave: Yes; I do have to ask you
Ann: And didn't you win the all around, as a freshman in UCLA, in the NCAA?
Kim: I won floor exercise as a freshman. I won a floor exercise three years in a row. I was injured my senior year, so I didn't get to
Dave: So it would have been four years.
Ann: And you’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame at UCLA; that's remarkable.
Kim: Yes, yes.
Ann: And not only that, but you're married to an athlete as well. What do you think your husband, Corwin—and you've been married 30 years
Kim: —30 years.
Ann: —would he sayhe's a football playerwhat sport would he say?
Kim: He would say gymnastics.
Ann: He would.
Kim: He tells people, to this day, how he would come in and watch me train. And he said, “I've lost all respect for every other sport [Laughter] because gymnastics is wild.”
Dave: Walk us through your story a little bit. How did you end up there? Were you a gymnast your whole life? Tell us about your family. How did/where did this all start?
Kim: Well, I was watching the ’76 Olympics; and I was sitting on the floor of my grandmother's house. At the time, we lived with my grandmother. Oftentimes, we didn't have the ability to afford to live in our own place—so we would live with family membersmy mom and I.
I was watching Nadia; and I said, “Hey, I can do that.” I went into the living room and started doing front flips, landing on my back, knocking over tables and lamps—and got sent outside—and tried to take the pillows outside with me; but my grandmother was like, “Oh no, no, no; you go out there.”
I went outside to these brick sidewalks and started flipping around; taught myself several skills. My mother thought I was going to seriously injure myself, and then she took me to a rec class at a gym across town. We had to take two buses to get there. I get to this rec class, and I see all of these mats and this equipment. It was like the heavens opened up; the angels started singing. [Laughter]
I'm flipping around. I got in trouble several times during this class because, when we were supposed to be on the low beam, I was on the high beam. When we were supposed to swing on the little low bar, I was climbing up on the high bar. The coach had to keep reprimanding me.
After the class was over, the coach calls me over. I thought to myself, “He's going to tell me to never come back. I'm going to get in so much trouble.” I sheepishly walk over to him; and then he asked me, “So where have you trained before?”
Kim: I said, “I just flip outside of my grandma’s house on the sidewalk/on the brick sidewalk.” He says, “Well, show me what you've taught yourself.” I started doing side aerials, and just flipping around; and he invited me to join the team that day.
Ann: How old were you?
Kim: I was nine, almost ten.
Kim: So that's late in gymnastics.
Ann: Well, take us back. I mean, you said, real quickly, “We lived in different houses and with different families.” What was going on, as you grew up, and where did you grow up?
Kim: I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. My mother was a teenager when she got pregnant with me. One of the thingsI don't know if you know thisbut because she was living in poverty, her family was living in a two-bedroom house, 10 to 13 people at a time; and there wasn't enough room for anotherand because of that situation of poverty, my mother was counseled to do a self-induced abortion to prevent me from being born into a set of dire circumstances.
Ann: How old was she?
Kim: She was 17; I think she was 17 at the time. She did what she was told.
Dave: She tried.
Kim: She tried; several times, she tried, because that advice came from someone she loved and respected. She thought a self-induced abortion was the only way. After several failed attempts, she refused to keep trying. She told me that she really wanted to keep me, but she just didn't know what to do; she was doing what she was told.
Dave: How old were you when you found out that she tried?
Kim: I don't think I knew until I was an adult, for sure. And it could have been when I was writing my story/putting my story into a book form.
Dave: By the way, we could mention that: Unfavorable Odds.
Kim: Unfavorable Odds.
Dave: We have it here at FamilyLife Today; you can get it from our Resource Center. And you have a podcast
Dave: with the Family Life Podcast Network. And that's called
Kim: Unfavorable Odds.
Dave: Yes; and so you interview people that really overcome and go throughanyway, that's something you can listen to—and I'm sitting here/we're looking at a person that overcame.
Ann: Wow, Kim, I didn't know that about your story. I mean, I look at you and think, “Look at all God has done in and through you.”
Ann: That's remarkable.
Kim: Thank you.
Dave: So did she end up having to leave that house and give birth to you? How did that go?
Kim: So she/they allowed her to stay in the home. I was born—and even/just it was a struggle for me to get into this world/to enter into this world—because my mother had been hit by a car when she was little. She was like a 5-year-old/was hit by a drunk driver. That driver/the car dragged her down the street, and it crushed her pelvic bone. When it came time for her to deliver me, the doctors ran into major complications. They told her: “Either you are going to die, or your child will not live; but one of you will not survive.” They gave her a choice.
When I think about it, she was this teenage girl, who had a second chance of opting out of motherhood; but instead of allowing the doctors to take the life of the child, she said, “No, you do whatever you can to save my baby, even if it costs me my own life.” As she was giving birth, my head was caught beneath her pelvic bone. They thought they would have to break my neck in order to free me, which would, of course, cost my life. And then out of nowhere, this doctor/this other doctor comes in. He believed that he could save us both, and that's exactly what he did. So a second time, my life was spared.
I was/I was born into this situation, where my parents ended up getting married shortly after I was born.
Dave: I’ve got to stop right there.
Dave: Who's this other doctor?—sounds like an angel.
Kim: I had no idea; I’d love to find this doctor.
Dave: I mean, God sent a man—or was it a man or a woman
Kim: It was a man.
Dave: came in and spared both your lives.
Ann: And I'm thinking: “A 17-year-old girl—you're in one of the most selfish stages of your life, basically—and she chooses life for you. That’s remarkable.”
So your mom and your dad get married.
Kim: Yes, and things don't turn out so good. It's not one of those happily-ever-after type stories. He was in the military, and he had experienced some difficult things. He began to use drugs, and he became abusive.
When I look into the eyes of my mother, I knew that I was loved; and she cherished me. She told me she loved me; she was always there for me. But when it came to my father, I didn't feel like I had much value or worth in his eyes at all, because he would disappear for days and weeks on end. There were times when he wouldn't show up for holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I never understood what was going on; but my mom and I just continued to live life, and we struggled. [Sigh]
Ann: What was hard? When you say you struggled, what were you struggling with?
Kim: [Emotion in voice] Life. Right now, I have so many things going through my mind.
Ann: Yes, I can see; and you're trying to hold back tears.
Kim: [Emotion in voice] Yes; my mom—as you just heard—as a 17-year-old year old, just amazing woman; and she did everything she could to provide for me. I remember this Christmas, whereI think I was in middle schoolmy father hadn't come home; he wasn't there. She was sitting there all alone. I walked in to celebrate. She was always sad on Christmaswas a sad time for us—and it was because she knew that she couldn't provide for me the types of presents that a child would want.
This Christmas, she had these presents under the tree; they were beautifully wrapped. I sat across from her, and she passed me these presents. I pulled back the wrapping paper and the tissue paper, and all I found in those boxes were small notes. She had written on those notes what she would have gotten me if she had the money to do so.
Ann: Wow. Give us an example, like what would one say?
Kim: I think I was maybe in 7th or 8th grade; so mainly I wanted clothing and shoes, things like that. So it would be—“Jean jacket,” “Denim skirt,” or “White blouse,” or “Vest”—things like that. So I had theseso what would have been this major disaster in the eyes of any child or any mother—what we did was: we sat on the floor, and we took all of these pieces of paper, and we matched outfits. She said, “Okay, so we have all these outfits here; but you can wear this jacket with this pair of pants,” [Laughter] “And you can wear this shirt with this skirt. We can switch it around, and you can go for two weeks without wearing the same outfit.” [Laughter]
So that was who my mother was/such a positive woman. Living and growing up in an environment, where I was surrounded by drugs/financial hardships, she was so incredibly positive. I think, and I know, it's because of her, that I even had the courage to become a gymnast.
Dave: Now, was your dad out of the picture? Did he eventually leave or
Kim: He was in and out of the picture. They were married, divorced, and then they remarried. But even when they remarried, he was only around when it was convenient or when he wanted to be. And when he was around, depending on what mood he was in, it could be very difficult.
Ann: How did you feel about that, Kim? And what did that do to your own identity and self-esteem, having your dad in and out of your life?
Kim: It felt as if I was being abandoned, over, and over, and over again. So when he wasn't there, we could relax—we would exhale; we felt safe—we felt like we would be okay. But then we never knew when he was going to come back; there was no warning. But when the keys would jingle at the door, I would go into a panic. I would hide, because I didn't know who was going to walk in that door. So that feeling of, as soon as you feel like you can relax—but then you know he comes back again—and then there's just stress; there's fear. You just don't know what's going to happen. I was afraid for my mother. It was just difficult.
Dave: Now, was the trip from Virginia to California to go to college, was that an escape at the time?
Kim: Gymnastics, as a whole, was an escape for me. That was the only place where I could be in control of what I was doing: flipping through the air, twisting, landing. And as difficult as the sport was, it was/it wasn't as difficult as my home life was at the time. Going away to UCLA was
Ann: —which we need to add, too: you were the first black American gymnast that was ever offered a scholarship. Is that correct?
Ann: How did that feel?
Kim: Well, I didn't know it at the time; [Laughter] I had no idea. I knew that I was in a sport, where I was one of very few black gymnasts. I almost didn't go to UCLA, because I was so tired of the sport; it had taken a lot out of me. You know, we hear about how gymnasts have been treated, and it was just difficult. I didn't think I could go through another four years of that. I went off to UCLA, and college gymnastics was quite different from club gymnastics—it was fun; we could laugh; we could enjoy our time—it was an escape from my background.
But I would still talk with my mother and get updates on what was going on. I will never forget the conversation that I had with her, where she finally, since I was away, she felt the strength and the power to tell my father: “No, this will not continue to go on as is.” He put her out of her apartment/our apartment that had her name on it. She came home and found all of her things in the front yard, and she was the one struggling to pay the rent for that place.
I remember talking with her [my mom], and Jackie Joyner Kersey was the first person I saw. She was something/someone at UCLA, whom I admired. I felt that she would be the only one who would understand—because my teammates/they came from a totally different lifestyle—and I wasn't comfortable sharing my background and what really went on at home with them. I talked with Jackie; she just comforted me. I can picture it this day—I was standing in the athletic department and just telling her about this—and she was giving me the best comfort she could possibly give.
So I escaped, but there was still this stuff hanging over my head.
Dave: When did, or how did God become a part of your story?
Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Kim Anthony on FamilyLife Today. We'll hear her answer in just a minute; but first, Father's Day is coming up this weekend. You already knew that though; right?—I hope you did.
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Alright; now, back to Kim Anthony and how God became a part of her story.
Kim: I went back home to Virginia after my freshman year. I was hanging out with some of my friends, and we were walking to a fast-food place. It was late at night, probably one in the morning. There were some words exchanged between a group of guys I was with and some others; it was over something very silly. We went up to the restaurant, and we were still standing outside. I hear this person, come up from behind me, screaming and yelling. I turned around to see what was going on; and when I did, I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun, and this angry young man behind the gunhe held it point blank to my headwas telling me that he was going to kill me that night.
All of these things rushed through my mind: it didn’t matter whether my father was coming home; it didn't matter whether he loved me or not. It didn't matter that I had just won my first NCAA National Championship title, just a few months before. Everything that I had looked to give me value was, all of a sudden, worth absolutely nothing.
By the grace of God, I walked away from that event unharmed. But I walked away, thinking, “There has to be more to life than this. You live, you die, and for what purpose?” It was that fallprobably just a month or so laterI met a young football player. He sat me down, and he pulled out this little yellow booklet called The Four Spiritual Laws. He shared with me that God loved me and had a plan for my life, and that there was more to life than what I had been experiencing.
I had never heard the gospel before; I had never heard that God cared about me. I was one of those people who—I was really hoping that God was real, but just wasn't sure that He was—because the life I was seeing around me wasn't reflecting that. So right then and there—he [football player] had no idea that my life had been threatened just a month or so before—but right then and there, I knew that's what I had been missing. So I prayed on the spot. I asked Jesus to come into my heart, make me the person He wanted me to be; and I just surrendered my life to Christ.
My life slowly began to change—it wasn't that the angels sang, like they did in the gym—[Laughter]—but I started to feel a bit different. The things that I used to do, I started to no longer feel comfortable doing as I began to read God's Word and learn more about who He was.
I also began to discover who I was, that I was not a mistake. So for 18 or 19 years of my life—up until that point—I was told that I was a mistake; I was treated like I was a mistake; and I had believed it. So now, here I am, learning about this God who loves me and who created me on purpose for a purpose. I'm realizing that my value is not based on my athletic accomplishments, my popularity, or anything else; but the fact that God loves me and created me on purpose.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Kim Anthony on FamilyLife Today. You can find Kim Anthony’s podcast called Unfavorable Odds wherever you get your podcasts. She talks with all kinds of people, who have found their strength in Christ, while going through really hard times. They're deep and inspiring conversations, and you won't regret subscribing. So search for Unfavorable Odds or go to FamilyLife Today and find the Family Life Podcast Network in the menu.
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Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking, again, with Kim Anthony about finding her own walk with God, apart from relying on a boyfriend. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you can join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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