A new generation of U.S. Olympians are standing on the shoulders of giants at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist Dominque Dawes is one of those giants.
The Maryland native doesn’t have advice for the gymnasts themselves, but for their parents.
“Open your eyes, open your ears. You need to know these people that are influencing and impacting your young people,” Dawes said.
She also warns parents to be careful of the gym they use to train their children.
“If you don’t know what that gym is about and you don’t see kids who are excited to come into that gym facility, and it almost feels as if it’s a full-time job for them,” Dawes said. “There is no joy, no laughter, no happiness. That in itself is a red flag.”
As the owner of the Dominique Dawes Gymnastics and Ninja Academy in Clarksburg, she said she’s trying to change the culture of gymnastics.
When she retired from the sport after 18 years, Dawes said she didn’t want her kids to go through what she went through.
“The level of sacrifice, the level of commitment, is a little too much for such a young person.” But, she added, the gymnasts of today are such role models because they are speaking out and they are sharing their truth.
A big part of them sharing their truth was when over 150 former gymnasts on the U.S. women’s team gave impact statements about the sexual abuse they experienced at the hands of Larry Nassar.
Dawes talked about the identity crisis that she and many other athletes go through at the end of their careers because their identities were wrapped up in their sport.
She said after the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia, “I went through a very dark period, but I leaned on my faith greatly.”
She realized if she could impact fans through athletics, she could impact them in her next vocation. Along with being a gym owner, she’s been a motivational speaker for 25 years.
Dominique was born and raised in the Silver Spring-Takoma Park area and trained in Gaithersburg.
The mother of four has a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and 3-year-old twins — three boys and one girl. She described her gym as a place where, “We are taking care of each and every child and making sure they are happy and whole.”
Dawes was also co-producer of the docuseries “Golden: The Journey of USA’s Elite Gymnasts.”
It’s about the journey of five elite gymnasts on the way to the Tokyo Olympics, streaming on Peacock.
Dawes spoke to WTOP before gymnast Simone Biles made her mental health challenges public and withdrew from multiple events during the Olympics, so Dawes did not comment on that.
“What I love about Simone Biles is she is listening to her inner voice,” Dawes said after Biles backed out of the team final last week.
“I would go through mental blocks and forget how to do a certain maneuver, a maneuver I had done thousands and thousands of times before. I would have to get it together for the competition, but it was always very scary.”
On Monday, Biles said she plans to compete in Tuesday’s balance beam final.