In my continuing series 'African-American Olympic first', this post highlights one of my favorite Olympians, the ever elegant Dominique Dawes. In the summer of 1996, I was living in Perth, Western Australia. These were the Atlanta Olympics which, at the time, were much for famous for the 'Olympic Park Bomb' than anything else. Ms. Dawes, as a black gymnast, really stood out because I didn't see (and really wasn't looking for) any other black folk in gymnastic competition. The 1996 Women's Olympic Team in gymnastics was nicknamed the 'Magnificent 7' in honor of their improbable Team Gold Medal win against very long odds.
I am not going to sit here and write that Dominique Dawes was MY FAVORITE athlete in those games because that title belongs to her teammate, one Ms. Kerry Strug! Ms. Strug was the American Gymnast who made that famous vault on an injured ankle, stuck the landing, and injured her ankle even more. Afterwards, she was carried around the stadium by her coach.(Please click on link)
Listed here are some of Ms. Dawes' accomplishments as an African American Gymnasts
- 2008 inductee into the USOC Hall of Fame – Dawes was inducted along with her teammates on the “Magnificent Seven” group that won gold in 1996
-First African-American female gymnast to qualify for the Olympics (1992) prior to selection committee; first African-American female gymnast to win an individual medal (1996)
-1996 Olympic Gold medalist with U.S. team in Atlanta
-1996 Olympic Bronze medalist (individual) in floor exercise in Atlanta
-1992 Olympic Bronze medalist with U.S. team in Barcelona
2000 qualifier for the Sydney Olympics
1993 Silver medalist (individual) in uneven bars and balance beam at World Championships
1994 National All Around Champion 1st V, B, BB, FX
1994 Silver medalist with U.S. team at World Championships
1996 Bronze medalist (individual) in floor exercise at World Championships
A few writers have referred to these female athletes as 'Pixies' in reference to the nice, soft, miniature, wand waving fictional characters that appear in fairy tales. Are you kidding me? Out side of female gymnast being of short stature, this comparison is way off base! These women are the polar opposites in that they are hyper-competitive, strong as steel, tough as nails, and they don't have a magic wand to wave around to make something they want happen, they work for years to get there!In closing, I know that someday Ms. Dawes, her publicist or whomever has been charged with making sure her image is kept to a high standard will run across this blog. Please tell Ms. Dawes, for me "Thanks for not sitting around and waiting for someone else to be the first black to obtain such accomplishment, thanks for believing that anything is possible especially because it hasn't been done before, and much thanks to her parents that obviously didn't believe that black folk shouldn't try something new."