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Gymnast: Dominique Dawes

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Dominique Dawes of the USA during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia

Dominique Dawes of the USA during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Dominique Dawes won all four events and the all-around at the 1994 US Nationals. A three-time Olympian, Dawes represented the US in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Games and won three Olympic medals.

Her Early Years:

Dawes first competed at the US Nationals as a junior elite in 1988. She placed an unremarkable 17th all-around, but improved to 3rd all-around in the junior division one year later.

Tumbling That Wowed:

As a young gymnast, Dawes was best known for her back-to-back tumbling on floor. Her first pass would often be seven to 10 skills in a row, and go from one corner to the other and back again.

 

The 1992 Games:

Dominique Dawes qualified to her first Olympic team in ’92, at age 15. She wasn’t yet one of the stars of the team, but was a solid competitor that earned high scores. Led by Shannon Miller and Kim Zmeskal, the US team earned bronze, and Dawes, along with teammate Betty Okino, became the first African-American female gymnasts to win an Olympic medal.

A Near-Miss at Worlds:

In 1993 Dawes was quickly becoming one of the best gymnasts in the world, and at World Championships that year, she led the all-around field after three events. Knowing that she needed a very strong vault to win, she gambled on a new vault – a 1 1/2–twisting Yurchenko – and lost. She fell on her second attempt, and ended up fourth overall. Teammate Miller took the all-around title, but Dawes served notice that she would be an all-around force in the coming years. Dawes also grabbed two silver medals in the event finals on bars and on beam.

Near-Miss #2:

The all-around at the 1994 worlds was again a heartbreak for Dawes. As in ’93, Dawes competed vault last, and once again, fell on one of her attempts. She ended up fifth in the all-around, and was further disappointed in the event finals, finishing fourth on bars and sixth on beam and floor.

Making History:

At the 1994 US Nationals, Dawes showed that she could, in fact, beat the top gymnast in the world. Dawes bested two-time world all-around champion Miller on every event and the all-around. Dawes brought home five gold medals from the competition, and became the second woman after Joyce Tanac-Schroeder to complete a sweep of every event and the all-around at US nationals.

The 1996 Games:

Dawes qualified to her second Olympic team by winning the Olympic Trials (with the absence of ’96 national champion Miller and ’95 national champion Dominique Moceanu). The team, nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven”, was heralded as the best US Olympic team ever assembled, and the squad lived up to its name. The US gymnasts became the first American women’s team to win Olympic gold.

Dawes had another disappointing all-around competition, however. She was leading the competition after two events when an uncharacteristic fall on floor knocked her out of the medals. Dawes came back strong in the individual event finals, winning a bronze on floor and placing fourth on bars.

A Third Olympic Run:

Dawes retired after the ’96 Games, but returned to competition in 2000 to try for an unprecedented third Olympic team. After a seventh place finish at Olympic Trials, Dawes was named to the team. In Sydney, the team took fourth place, just out of the medals, but later was awarded the bronze when China was retroactively disqualified from the competition.

Personal Info:

Dawes was born on November 20, 1976 in Silver Spring, Maryland to Don and Loretta Dawes. She has an older sister, Danielle, and a younger brother, Don Jr.

Dawes began gymnastics at age six and trained her entire career with Kelli Hill at Hill’s Gymnastics.

She retired from the sport after the 2000 Olympics, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in 2002. Dawes served as president of the Women’s Sports Federation from 2004 until 2006, and was a commentator for Yahoo! Sports at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She also works as a motivational speaker and hosts clinics for young gymnasts throughout the US.

Gymnastics Results:

International:
  • 2000 Olympics: 3rd team
  • 1998 Goodwill Games: 9th mixed pairs
  • 1996 Olympics: 1st team; 17th all-around; 6th vault; 4th bars; 3rd floor
  • 1996 Worlds: 3rd beam
  • 1994 Chunichi Cup: 6th all-around; 4th vault; 1st bars; 1st beam; 2nd floor (tie)
  • 1994 Team Worlds: 2nd team
  • 1994 Worlds: 5th all-around; 4th bars; 6th beam; 6th floor
  • 1994 American Cup: 1st all-around; 1st vault; 1st beam; 1st floor
  • 1993 Worlds: 4th all-around; 2nd bars; 2nd beam
  • 1992 Olympics: 3rd team; 26th all-around (preliminaries)
National:
  • 2000 Olympic Trials: 7th all-around
  • 2000 US Nationals: 9th all-around
  • 1998 American Classic: 8th all-around; 1st vault (tie); 5th bars
  • 1996 Olympic Trials: 1st all-around
  • 1996 US Nationals: 6th all-around; 1st vault; 1st bars; 1st beam; 1st floor
  • 1996 American Classic/World Trials: 2nd all-around
  • 1995 World Team Trials: 5th all-around
  • 1995 US Nationals: 4th all-around; 4th vault; 1st bars; 3rd beam; 1st floor
  • 1994 World Team Trials: 1st all-around
  • 1994 US Nationals: 1st all-around; 1st vault; 1st bars; 1st beam; 1st floor
  • 1994 American Classic/World Team Trials: 1st all-around
  • 1993 US Nationals: 2nd all-around; 1st vault; 3rd bars; 1st beam; 2nd floor
  • 1993 US Classic: 1st all-around
  • 1993 American Classic/World Trials: 2nd all-around; 1st vault; 2nd bars; 4th beam; 2nd floor
  • 1992 Olympic Trials: 4th all-around
  • 1992 US Nationals: 4th all-around; 1st bars
  • 1991 US Nationals: 9th all-around; 1st floor (tie)
  • 1990 US Nationals (Jr. Division): 3rd all-around

 

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