8 Things to Know About Gymnast Dominique Dawes

Get up close and personal with this three-time Olympian

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 U.S. nationals. A three-time Olympian, Dawes represented the United States in 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and won three Olympic medals.

As many headlines as she has made, there's still lots to learn about her as a person and as an athlete. Here are eight things to help you get to know Dawes a little better. 

1. Her Tumbling Has Always Wowed, Even When She Was a Junior

Dawes first competed at the U.S. nationals as a junior elite in 1988.

She placed an unremarkable 17th all-around but improved to third all-around in the junior division one year later.

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.

Watch her in action: 

2. Barcelona 1992 Was Her Rookie Olympics

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 who earned high scores. Led by Shannon Miller and Kim Zmeskal, the U.S. team earned bronze. Dawes and teammate Betty Okino became the first African-American female gymnasts to win an Olympic medal.

3. She Gambled At The 1993 World Competition — And Lost

In 1993, Dawes was quickly becoming one of the best gymnasts in the world, and at the World Gymnastics 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 1.5 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.

4. She Had Another Agonizing Near-Miss One Year Later

The all-around at the 1994 worlds was again a heartbreak for Dawes. Just like in ’93, Dawes competed on the vault last, and once again, she 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.

5. But Also She Made History in 1994

At the 1994 U.S. 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 U.S. nationals.

6. She Was a Member of the Mag 7

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 U.S. Olympic team ever assembled, and the squad lived up to its name. The U.S. 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 the 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.

7. And She Was Named to Three Olympic Teams

Dawes retired after the ’96 games but returned to compete in 2000 to try for an unlikely third Olympic team. After a seventh-place finish at the 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.

8. All the Kids' Names in Her Family Start With 'd'

Dawes was born on Nov. 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 6 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 United States.

Gymnastics Results:


  • 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)


  • 2000 Olympic Trials: 7th all-around
  • 2000 U.S. nationals: 9th all-around
  • 1998 American classic: 8th all-around; 1st vault (tie); 5th bars
  • 1996 Olympic Trials: 1st all-around
  • 1996 U.S. 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 U.S. nationals: 4th all-around; 4th vault; 1st bars; 3rd beam; 1st floor
  • 1994 World Team Trials: 1st all-around
  • 1994 U.S. nationals: 1st all-around; 1st vault; 1st bars; 1st beam; 1st floor
  • 1994 American classic/World Team Trials: 1st all-around
  • 1993 U.S. nationals: 2nd all-around; 1st vault; 3rd bars; 1st beam; 2nd floor
  • 1993 U.S. 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 U.S. nationals: 4th all-around; 1st bars
  • 1991 U.S. nationals: 9th all-around; 1st floor (tie)
  • 1990 U.S. nationals (junior division): 3rd all-around