By Bruce W. Biesenthal
When Kim Anthony, at the time Kim Hamilton, announced as an adolescent girl growing up in Richmond, VA, that she was going to become a gymnast, the voices of protest rang out around her. "That's a white girl's sport," the voices said. "You'll never be able to do that."
Even after she became an aspiring gymnast, her coaches were negative. "They told me I couldn't do it", she says.
But the word "can't" does not seem to be part of Kim Anthony's vocabulary.
Kim could easily have been another product of the ghetto and the drug culture, except for one thing. She had a dream. She had a vision and she had a need.
Kim had seen Nadia Komaneci perform at the 1976 Olympics. Watching Nadia receive her perfect scores and seeing all the adulation and applause from the crowd touched a place deep within Kim Anthony.
She needed approval. She needed a sense that she had worth. She needed someone to hold up score cards and tell her she had value.
She didn't get that at home.
Her mother tried. Her mother did everything she could to provide for Kim all she needed. It was Kim's father who was the problem.
"He would just disappear," she says, adding, "He wouldn't even come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas."
Kim, of course, being a little girl, thought it was somehow her fault. Her reasoning was that if she was only good enough her father would have a reason to stay home. She even took to rolling joints as a seven-year-old to earn her father's approval.
How enticing the life of a gymnast must have seemed - to see someone like Nadia Comaneci standing on the podium, swimming in applause, draped in laurels.
Kim began to imagine herself on that podium, receiving the approval she so desperately desired.
Imagination became reality.
Despite the voices to the contrary, Kim enjoyed a successful career in gymnastics, being the first female African-American gymnast to be recruited by and receive a scholarship to UCLA, becoming a four-time National Champion and six-time All-American, and even earning induction into the UCLA Hall of Fame in 2000.
But she still didn't find the approval she was looking for. In fact, Kim calls it an "emotional roller-coaster." If she performed well, she felt good about herself. But her sense of worth and value lasted only until her next performance, when she would have to earn it all over again. And sometimes she didn't. Sometimes her performance was not up to her standard, and her esteem fell crashing to the floor.
And then it changed.
It changed after Kim walked away from a potentially life-threatening incident. Looking down the barrel of a gun puts life in perspective. Approval from her father didn't mean so much anymore. And all the gymnastic honors lost their luster.
Life changed even more after Kim, still wearing the name Hamilton, met Corwin Anthony, a UCLA football player. They fell in love, and became husband and wife. But more than that, Corwin shared with Kim a message of peace and worth and value. "He told me God had a plan for my life," says Kim. "And that I could have a relationship with Him."
And while the change was neither instantaneous nor theatrical, it was effective. Kim had found her sense of worth and value, and knew she never had to earn it.
Kim is still busy creating her reality, but not to earn approval. Now, she simply has a desire to follow where God leads.
And God is leading in interesting ways.
She had a desire to be an actress, and hired an agent. But she kept being sent on auditions that would have caused her to compromise her faith. "It was discouraging," she says, and the career never materialized.
Instead, she became a broadcaster.
Kim and her husband, Corwin, moved to Peoria, IL, after Corwin's brief NFL career. Kim was listening to a Christian radio station and heard someone do the weather. "I can do that," she thought. So she called the station, applied for a job, was hired, and fell in love with broadcasting.
With experience in radio, Kim set her sights on television.
Again, imagination became reality.
When Corwin joined the Promise Keepers organization in Colorado, Kim decided she would become a sports broadcaster. "Sports has been my life," she says. "I simply feel most comfortable around athletes."
So she contacted Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain. She sent them a tape of a fictitious show about women in sports she had made while in Peoria. One thing led to another and Kim was hired. She became the gymnastics meet analyst for Fox Sports Net, and worked the sideline doing NBA games for Fox Sports.
For the last five years, Kim has been with Athletes In Action, a Christian ministry to college and professional athletes and coaches, serving as the chaplain for the wives of the Miami Dolphins.
"That has been a blast," says Kim in her enthusiastic style. "It's been such a growing experience. There have been great moments and other moments-moments that make you question what you should be doing. I have learned to be patient and follow God's direction. He's using people to help me grow."
Kim equates her Christian walk to being a gymnast. "There are hard times," she says. "There are times you get knocked down. There are times you fall down. There are times it hurts. But you still have to keep getting up and going and moving toward that goal - the goal of a becoming more and more a Christ-like person.
"And sometimes you don't want to get back up. Sometimes you're afraid you'll hurt yourself. That's why the coach is there to encourage you. God is the coach, saying, ‘I believe in you. You can do it.'"
This March, after a five year absence, Kim was back in front of the television cameras, working for ESPN, doing the first round of the Women's NCAA Basketball tournament, with potential for more ESPN opportunities in the future.
And on the horizon? What is Kim imagining now?
She bubbles with excitement when discussing the future. She has written a treatment on women in sports that she's currently shopping. "It's a platform for women in sports to be positive role models for up-and-coming female athletes." And who does she imagine hosting the show? There's no hesitation. "Me."
Of course, there's a reason for her confidence and her boundless imagination. She knows God is with her. "Everything I've done I call it God's favor. There is no way I could ever have opened doors He has opened."
Her favorite Bible passage is Jeremiah 29:11: "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and give you hope and a future."
There wasn't much hope in the inner-city of Richmond, Virginia, and there didn't seem to be much future. Not for a little girl who desperately needed her absent father's approval.
But God had other plans.