Graham Samuel Ackerman|
(July 14, 1983 - living) U.S.A.
Born in Seattle, WA, his parents are Robin Dearling and Gary Ackerman, and has one brother, David. Graham has a double major in political science and European development.
Graham was Washington State Champion in 1995, 1999 and 2001 in floor exercise and vault; he also competed in 1997 and 1998 Junior Nationals; 2001 Junior National floor and vault champion. He was 1999 and 2001 Regional All-Around Champion; competed at 2001 US Nationals, placing first in floor exercise and vault, as well as ninth in all around.
An openly gay collegiate gymnast, Grahm has overcome back and ankle fractures during his career. In 2002 he was slowed by ankle injury throughout the season, returning to full strength just in time to receive All-America honors.
"I came out my sophomore year. I'd been out to a few friends in high school before that, but up until I was 19 it was something I tried not to think about, but to concentrate on school and gymnastics. But it kind of got to the point where I realized that I needed to be honest with myself and I wanted to be honest with my friends too. I came out to my team first. That was the hardest. They all took it well. I credit the team captains who took the team together and said, 'Graham is part of the team, and this is who he is.' I was really blown away."
He won the silver medal on vault at the USA Championships, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin over the summer of 2003. in August of 2003 he was chosen to represent the United States at the World University games in Taegu, Korea.
The six-time All-American completed one of the most successful seasons by a Bear gymnast ever in 2004; he became first gymnast, from University of California, Berkeley, to capture two national titles (floor exercise and vault) in the same year; fourth Golden Bear to earn four All-American honors in the same night
Graham, a senior at the University of California, in April 2005 won the national championship in the floor exercise event at the 2005 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championship at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., making him a three-time national champ and one of only a handful of openly gay top-ranked college athletes. There was irony in the fact that he was presented his championship award by a West Point cadet, given that as an out gay man he wouldn't be able to attend the school or join the military...
He doesn't know whether his gymnastics career will continue after he graduates. He said his focus for the last year has been this competition, and that the moments after the competition were the first ones he was allowing himself to think about what might be next.
Bottom photo by David Jensen