Photo credits: Amy Sancetta for The Associated Press
One of the most renowned names in the history of American gymnastics is Dominique Dawes (pictured). She was born on November 20, 1976, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Dawes recognized her passion for gymnastics at an early age of six. She attended lessons with Coach Kelli Hill, who remained her coach for the rest of Dawes’ gymnastics career. With her skills and determination, Dawes soon became a dominant force to be reckoned with in the field of gymnastics.
At the young age of 12, Dawes became the first African American to earn a spot on the national women’s team. In 1992, Dawes joined the U.S. Olympic artistic gymnastics team, which won the bronze medal in Barcelona, Spain. In the 1994 National Championships, she won all-around gold and four individual events.
Dawes trounced the competition on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and on the floor exercise. She eventually became the first gymnast to win all five gold medals since 1969.
Dawes made the cut for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. She led the Magnificent Seven to the first position and made her squad the first U.S. women’s gymnastics team to do so in the history of Olympics. A few small mistakes, including a fall, hindered Dawes’ contention for the all-around competition medal.
However, she earned herself the title of the first African American to win an individual medal in women’s gymnastics by displaying the best floor performance.
Dawes successfully maintained a balance between academic achievement and sports. She attended Standford University on an athletic scholarship, which she had received upon graduating from Gaithersburg High School. However, she had deferred her enrollment until after the 1996 Olympics. Being an all-rounder, Dawes also began pursuing a career in the arts around the same time.
She involved herself in acting, television production, and modeling. Appearing in the famous Broadway musical, Grease, Dominique Dawes also worked for Disney Television and starred in one of Prince’s music videos.
Justifying to her reputation of Awesome Dawesome, Dawes continued to train while gaining higher education in 2000 and made it to U.S. Olympic team for a third time. Initially finishing in fourth place, the team was moved prized with a bronze medal after a Chinese competitor was disqualified.
Thus, Dawes became the first U.S. gymnast to be a part of three different medal-winning teams. She made a record by winning the most trips by a female U.S. gymnast to the Olympics.
The same year, Dawes permanently retired from gymnastics. She put her efforts into other fields by giving back to her community. Dawes served as the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation and was also a part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Active Schools” campaign. In 2010, Dawes also became Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
The former gymnast also earned herself a spot in USA’s Gymnastics’ Hall of Fame in 2005. Encouraging young individuals to be active, Dawes gives private lessons at her home gym.
She also holds a position on the advisory board for Sesame Workshop’s ‘Healthy Habits for Life’. Dawes additionally served as the National Spokesperson for Uniquely Me, the Unilever Self-Esteem Program, where she gave tips to girls regarding self-esteem issues and guided them by sharing her personal experiences.
Dominique Dawes maintained her connection with gymnastics by covering the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. She witnessed Gabby Douglas become the first African American to win an individual gold medal in the all-around competition in 2012.
She hoped that Douglas would be able to inspire young girls and serve as their role model in a manner similar to hers.
Reference: Editors, FamousAfricanAmericans.org. (2016 January 01) Dominique Dawes: Biography. Retrieved from https://www.famousafricanamericans.org/dominique-dawes
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.