On June 25, UNC named its new gymnastics head coach, Danna Durante, who comes into the program with 20 years of college coaching experience.
"Danna's commitment to excellence in the gym and the classroom is well-documented, and she has a proven track record of success with elite programs," Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement.
Durante is only the fourth head coach in program history.
She credits former UNC coach Derek Galvin for the effort that he put into improving the program over his 39 years, and she hopes to continue to build UNC into a more competitive program in the near future. Galvin retired in June 2020, with associate head coach Marie Denick filling in as interim last season.
“Coaching changes don’t happen often at UNC,” Durante said. “People come to build great programs here, and they stay.”
Before coming to UNC, the 1988 Olympic Trials defined Durante’s path.
An elite gymnast by the age of fifteen, Durante was a member of the U.S. National Team and qualified for the Olympic Trials for the 1988 games in Seoul but ultimately didn't make the cut for the Olympic team.
She said the main lesson she took from the 1988 Olympic Trials was overcoming adversity — a mindset she still dedicates herself to now.
"My life was dedicated to making Olympics, and if you didn't make the team you were done," she said. "That's the way it was. Most gymnasts until recently didn't have a chance if they didn't make the team before 16."
But Durante certainly wasn't done. She went on to compete on the college level at Arizona State University, where she earned multiple All-Pac 10 team accolades and scored perfect 10s five times.
After her collegiate career, Durante turned to the coaching world with the same passion and desire that she had as an athlete. Starting with coaching the Arizona Sunrays and Royal (Fla.) Gymnastics Clubs, Durante worked her way into the University of Washington program as an assistant coach.
She then left the University of Washington and spent nine seasons at the University of Nebraska, working as the Huskers' beam coach and choreographer. From 2007-2011, she was the associate head coach.
From the Huskers, Durante joined the University of Georgia Gymdogs as the head coach from 2012-2017 and led them to five straight NCAA Championship appearances, including three Super Six appearances.
Durante took a four-year break from coaching, spending time as operations director for What Drives Winning, a company that works with the "top minds in sport" to produce books, workshops and conference videos for athletics coaches.
She said this break allowed her to focus on her family during this time as well, with her youngest child recently graduating from high school. Then, throughout the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, she found an underlying desire to return to coaching, which led her to look for new opportunities.
To her, UNC was the right fit. Durante said her and her husband love the Carolinas because of the proximity to their children. Beyond that, she said she loves the culture of the school.
"UNC is a great fit since the university is unparalleled in athletics, academics, and opportunities for athletes," Durante said.
She believes that the team can win the EAGL, its conference and make a strong appearance in the NCAA Championships. UNC has won five conference championships, the latest coming in 2011.
Durante said she's excited for the future of UNC — with the ACC adding women's gymnastics to its sports roster starting in the 2023-2024 season.
A Power 5 conference supporting gymnastics means a significant amount to Durante, who said she believes in the importance of empowering women through sport. Durante believes that the ACC and Power 5 brand gives more potential for gymnastics at UNC and as a whole.
"(The addition of ACC gymnastics) gives more women opportunity in variety of sports as a launching pad for the rest of their lives," she said.