Dominique Dawes
Dawes at the 2000 Olympic Games

Full name

Dominique Margaux Dawes

Country represented

Flag of the United States of America United States of America


November 20 1976 (1976-11-20) (age 40)
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Years on National Team

1989–1998; 2000


Hill's Angels


Kelli Hill

Current status




Dominique Margaux Dawes (born November 20, 1976, in Silver Spring, Maryland) is a retired United States artistic gymnast. She was 10-year member of the U.S. national gymnastics team, the 1994 U.S. all-around senior National Champion, a three-time Olympian, a World Championships silver medalist and a member of the gold-medal winning "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Dawes is also notable as being the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics, and the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She is also one of only three female American gymnasts, along with Muriel Grossfeld and Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, to compete in three Olympics and was part of three Olympic medal-winning teams: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (gold), and Sydney 2000 (bronze). Dawes is the first female gymnast to be a part of three Olympic medal winning teams since Ludmila Tourischeva won gold in Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), and Montreal (1976), Polina Astakhova and Larisa Latynina won gold in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), Věra Čáslavská won silver in Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968). Since Dawes, Svetlana Khorkina is the only gymnast to accomplish this feat, winning silver in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000), and bronze in Athens (2004).

Early Life

Dominique Margaux Dawes was born in Silver Spring, Maryland on November 20, 1976 to Don and Loretta Dawes. She has an older sister, Danielle and a younger brother, Don Jr. She was first introduced to gymnastics at age six, when she signed up for a tumbling class. When she showed up, the class was canceled, and someone suggested to her parents that she try a local gymnastics club called Hill's Angels. Dawes signed up for classes at Hill's and began working with Kelli Hill, who would coach her for her entire career.

Gymnastics Career

Junior Career

Dawes was competing as a junior elite by the age of 10. She placed 17th in the all-around junior division at her first U.S. National Championships in 1988. In 1989, at the age of 12, she was sent to Australia to compete in her first international meet, the Konica Grand Prix. By the early 1990s, Dawes was achieving success both nationally and internationally. She placed 3rd in the all-around in the junior division at the 1990 U.S. National Championships.

At the 1992 USA vs. Japan dual meet, the 15-year old Dawes received a standing ovation, after an energetic floor routine in which she revived the back-to-back tumbling revolutionized by Soviet star Oksana Omelianchik. The judges were equally impressed, and gave her a perfect 10. Though she was not part of the 1991 World Championship team, Dawes continued to move up on the national and international scene throughout 1991 and 1992.


The crowd pleasing athlete placed 4th at the 1992 Olympic trials and was awarded a place on the United States Olympic team. Despite battling very painful tendinitis in both ankles and Osgood-Schlatter disease during pre-Olympic training, Dawes performed respectably throughout the competition, even having the boldness to try a brand-new move in her balance beam routine in the team competition--back handspring to three layout stepouts. She also won over the crowd with a solid optional floor exercise routine and, with a mark of 9.925, tied with Kim Zmeskal for the highest score for the American team on the event. The team won bronze, and Dawes and teammate Betty Okino became the first African American females to win an Olympic gymnastics medal.

Dawes only competed in the team competition in 1992, not breaking through as an all-around gymnast until 1993. She is probably best known for her performances at the 1993 and 1994 World Championships. In 1993, Dawes led the competition after three events, even beating her more famous teammate Shannon Miller. However, she decided to try her harder vault (1½ twisting layout Yurchenko) which was worth a 10.00 instead of simply a full-twisting layout Yurchenko which had been devalued to a 9.8. She made the first vault, but slipped and fell on the second, immediately bursting into tears. With the new rule that both vaults were averaged in all-around competition, her fall dropped her to 4th overall while Miller won the title. Famously, after the vault fall Dawes's coach Kelli Hill exhorted her to be proud of her performance anyway, stating: "When did you ever think you would be in that position? You have to be happy with yourself. Come on. Be happy. Stand up and wave". Dawes did so, and earned a standing ovation from the crowd. After this disappointment she rebounded in the event finals, winning two silver medals on bars and beam.

The same fate befell her in at the 1994 Worlds. Leading after three events, she again came to vault with a chance of winning the title. This time her mistake came on the first vault where Dawes over rotated and hurled forward into a somersault. Her low score dropped her to 5th. Her mistakes continued throughout the event finals and left the championships without winning a single medal.

Dawes would finish her year on a positive note, however. She dominated the National Championships, placing first in the all-around and all four event finals at the expense of rival Shannon Miller. It was the first year since 1969 that a gymnast had swept the competition. She went on to lead the American team to a silver medal at the World Team Championships in Dortmund, Germany, posting the third highest all-around score in the process.

Dawes struggled through a difficult 1995, riddled by wrist and ankle injuries. She finished 4th at Nationals, and was forced to sit out the World Championships that year. At the 1996 World Championships, Dawes missed out on a medal on the uneven bars, but tied Liu Xuan for a bronze medal on the balance beam. However, she rebounded at the 1996 U.S. National Championships to sweep all four event finals and finished first at the Olympic trials, earning a berth on the 1996 Olympic team at the age of 19.

1996 Olympics

The team, later nicknamed Magnificent 7, dominated the team competition. A key member of the team, Dawes performed without serious error and was the only team member to have all eight of her scores count towards the total. Along with Shannon Miller, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique Moceanu, Amanda Borden, Amy Chow and Kerri Strug, Dawes claimed her gold medal as part of the first American team to take the Olympic title. Another first, she became the first black woman of any nationality to win an Olympic gold in gymnastics.

Later in the week, however, Dawes lost yet another opportunity to win a major all-around title. Going into the competition, she was considered one of the heavy favorites to medal. She was ranked sixth overall among all competitors after the team event, and her scores from team optionals were the highest on the American team and the second highest overall. Dawes led the competition after two rotations, with Shannon Miller right behind her. Both gymnasts were on Floor Exercise for the 3rd rotation. Miller had a substantial mistake in her routine, knocking her out of the medals. On the middle tumbling pass of Dawes's floor routine, she under-rotated for fear that she might step out of bounds; she sat down the tumbling pass (and went out of bounds anyway) causing her position to plummet in the standings. NBC cameras zoomed in on Dawes, sitting in tears as her score from floor exercise was announced (it was an even 9.000), which led to numerous boos from the audience. She managed to pull out a decent Vault score, but finished 17th overall. In the Event Finals, she placed sixth on Vault and just out of the medals on Uneven Bars, but redeemed herself by winning Bronze in Floor Exercise finals, her first World Championship or Olympic medal in what had long been considered her best event.

2000 Olympics

Between 1996 and 1998 Dawes competed in various professional meets but retreated from elite competition. She returned briefly in 1998 to participate in the Goodwill Games, where she placed 19th in the Mixed Pairs event with Chainey Humphrey. However, she placed 9th all-around at 2000 U.S. Nationals and 7th at the Olympic Trials, and earned a spot on her third Olympic team.

In team preliminaries at the Sydney Olympics, Dominique Dawes posted the second highest score of the American team on uneven bars but the lowest on beam. In the team finals, she performed well on three events and contributed to the team's bronze medal, awarded April 28, 2010 when the International Olympic Committee stripped China of its 2000 team medal for an underage competitor. This third Olympic team medal gives Dawes more Olympic team medals than any other US gymnast in history.

Medal Count

Year Event TF AA VT UB BB FX
1988Junior U.S. Classic10
Junior National Championships17
1989Junior American Classic 42nd3rd96
U.S. Olympic Festival12
Konica Grand Prix16
1990American Classic 6
Junior National Championships 3rd
Trofeu Principle de Asturias10
1991U.S. Classic 6
National Championships 91st
American Cup5
McDonald's International Mixed Pairs7
Dutch Open2nd462nd3rd
Indianapolis World Championships15
1992National Championships41st
USA vs. Japan Dodge Challenge1st1st
Paris World Championships16
U.S. Olympic Trials4
Barcelona Olympic Games3rd26
1993American Classic 2nd1st2nd42nd
U.S. Classic 1st
Coca-Cola Championships2nd1st3rd1st2nd
American Cup7
Reebok International Mixed Pairs8
Hilton Challenge1st2nd
Birmingham World Championships42nd2nd
1994American Classic 1st
Coca-Cola Championships 1st1st1st1st1st
World Gymnastics Cup2nd2nd2nd2nd
American Cup1st1st1st1st
International Mixed Pairs1st
Chunichi Cup 6
Fukuoka Cup42nd1st3rd
Hilton Challenge1st1st
World Team Trials1st
Dortmund World Team Championships2nd
Brisbane World Championships5466
1995U.S. Classic 2nd
Coca-Cola Championships441st3rd1st
Visa Challenge1st71st1st
Budget Rent a Car Invitational1st2nd
World Team Trials5
1996American Classic 2nd1st1st1st1st
Coca-Cola Championships61st1st1st1st
World Championship Trials2nd
San Juan World Championships113rd
U.S. Olympic Trials1st
Atlanta Olympic Games1st17643rd
1997International Gymnastics Cup3rd
1998American Classic 81st51117
New York Goodwill Games9
2000John Hancock Championships9
U.S. Olympic Trials7
Sydney Olympic Games3rd

Featured Gymnast for September 2013

Floor Music

1992- "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" by Joe Costanzo

1993- "Malaguena"

1994- "Hungarian Rhapsody"

1995-1996- "Fantasy Quick" by the Kovirga Balalika Orchestra

1998- "Vamos a Bailar" by the Gypsy Kings

2000- "Tormento del Fuego" from Brisas de Pamplonita

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