Produced on November 20, 1976, in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dominique Dawes started taking gymnastics lessons at age 6. She retired from gymnastics following the 2000 Games. When she was 6 years old, she began taking gymnastics lessons with Kelli Hill, who stayed Dawes’s trainer for her whole gymnastics career. At age 9, Dawes would compose the word “decision” in crayon on a mirror so that you can organize herself for gymnastics meets—an approach that would pay off as she moved on to higher degrees of competition.
In 1988, she became the very first African American to produce the national women’s team. Dawes also joined the 1992 U.S. Olympic artistic gymnastics team, which won bronze medal in Barcelona. In the National Championships in 1994, Dawes won all around gold, along with all four individual events (vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise). She was the very first gymnast to win all five gold medals there since 1969.
Dawes again made the cut for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. Dawes were expecting to win an individual gold medal at the same time, and was devastated when a measure out of bounds as well as a fall during her floor routine put her out of medal contention during the all around contest.
In 2000, Dawes came from retirement to make the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for a third time. In the Olympic Games in Sydney, the team placed fourth. But when a Chinese rival was afterwards discovered to be underage, China lost its team medal, transferring the U.S. team up a pass, to bronze medal, a complete 10 years after the Olympics. This additionally got Dawes the first U.S. gymnast to be a member of three different medal-winning gymnastics teams.
Dominique Dawes retired from gymnastics for good after the 2000 Olympics. Outside of competitors, Dawes’s career has changed from inspirational talking to some one time stint on Broadway, appearing as Patty Simcox in Grease. She’s worked to support young people to be active, serving as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation so that as an element of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Transfer Active Schools” effort. Dawes also became co chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in 2010.
Dawes, who entered the USA Gymnastics’ Hall of Fame in 2005, has inspired an untold amount of girls along with her success. Dawes stayed involved in gymnastics by providing coverage for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. She could see Gabby Douglas become the very first African American to win an individual gold medal in the all around competition in the year 2012, and was thrilled that another generation of girls will have the ability to look up to Douglas the means others had looked up to her.