A three-time Olympian with four Olympic medals, including one gold, Dominique Dawes is one of 13 athletes sponsored by Citi's "Every Step of the Way" program, a digital program that allows fans to help with the allocation of Citi's $500,000 donation to the United States Olympic Committee. ThePostGame spoke with Dawes about her past, present and future in the Olympics.
ThePostGame: Tell us about Citi's "Every Step of the Way" program?
DOMINIQUE DAWES: It's all about supporting current Olympians as well as the next generation of Olympians. And the program was manifested because, what many people don't know, is that the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) is not government funded, so Citi has donated half a million dollars to support athletes. It's all about supporting the USOC recovery center. A lot of athletes get injured throughout their careers, so
it's all about helping them have things like hot and cold sponge pools.
TPG: Hot and cold sponge pools?
DAWES: There's a hot aspect, which is a little like a sauna or Jacuzzi, and then there's a cold aspect, which is an ice bath. And it's torture, but it's great for the body and it really helps athletes recover.
TPG: In 1996, at just 19 years old, you won gold in Atlanta. What was that like?
DAWES: Actually, 19 years old is considered an old dog in the sport of gymnastics. I was considered a veteran of that team. It was my second Olympic games, and I had read a couple of newspaper articles prior to the games that called me an "old dog." They weren't sure if I could "learn new tricks."
TPG: What was your reaction to people calling you an "old dog" before you were even 20?
DAWES: I was, very quickly, not allowed to read anything that the media was writing about me.
TPG: So what was it like being a part of the famed "Magnificent Seven" that year?
DAWES: It was a thrill to be part of that "Magnificent Seven," to make history. Those six girls are the most talented, hard-working girls that I've ever competed with or against in my whole gymnastics career. They really made me a better athlete.
TPG: Do you keep in touch?
DAWES: A little bit via Twitter and Facebook, which is why social media is so great, and a little bit via email. I'll always get announcements when someone's getting married or remarried, or having children. That's always fun. But, you know, the thing is that we were competitors our whole childhood, and, not that we're not friends today, but really today it's all about having respect for one another.
TPG: So who are your "best friends?"
DAWES: My best pals are the girls who grew up with me in Maryland. They cried with me in the gym when I wanted to quit and I cried with them when they wanted to quit, and we never quit, so the ones in Maryland are definitely my best friends.
TPG: So you started gymnastics when you were 6 years old. How long before you were seriously competing?
DAWES: Well, my coach decided to train me for four years instead of putting me into competitions right away, to get a foundation in the sport. It was all about focusing on fundamentals. So it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I started to really compete.
TPG: Tell me about the amount of time that you had to put in for training. Did you ever play any other sports? Did you even have time?
DAWES: It was 34 to 36 hours a week of training. And I just did gymnastics, not other sports. I never had time for much else.
TPG: When did you first start doing crazy flipping moves?
DAWES: [Laughs] Crazy flipping moves. I would have to say that started when I was 9 years old. That's when I started doing twists and double backs, where my coaches would just throw me in the air.
TPG: You must have had some real trust with those coaches.
DAWES: There were two female coaches for me back then. They were pretty strong. They would just throw me in the air and I would figure out how to land.
TPG: Sounds fairly dangerous.
DAWES: And we didn't have all the safety mechanisms they have today, so when I was young, it was just about learning to be a daredevil and just figuring it out along the way.
TPG: On that risky note, when was your first serious injury?
DAWES: That's a good question! I don't remember my first injury. I mean, there was always aches and pains. I was always icing after practice. I was always doing ultrasound, to myself believe it or not, before practice. But I can't recall my first injury and what age I was.
TPG: Today you would have a trainer or someone doing the ultrasound for you. Tell me about the differences between back then and today, in terms of things such as preparation and post injury care.
DAWES: I think a lot of these athletes have trainers with them at their private clubs. We didn't have trainers at the time, I think maybe because of finances we couldn't afford them. [Athletes today] have professionals to help them, every step, although I think they're still going through the same aches and pains and injuries that I did, or my teammates did, but they are just able to recover a little bit quicker today.
TPG: How do you think you stack up against the gymnasts of today?
DAWES: Well, I thought that some of my moves were pretty impressive until I saw these gymnasts, and they have found a way to somehow perfect everything even more. That's why I'm so excited to be here in London.
TPG: Will you still be rooting for the United States, even though you're in the media?
DAWES: I know I'm not supposed to show a bias, so I'm going to have to work hard to stay glued in my seat as the Americans are going up, because they are that talented. I'm in awe of each and every one of those competitors.
TPG: Tell me about being a co-chair with Drew Brees on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition? When did you get that phone call and what was it like getting a call from the White House?
DAWES: A little over two years ago I got a call from the White House, and I was asked if I wanted to be the co-chair with Drew. I knew he was a man of character and was someone who had spoken out heavily on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, so I took some time to think about it. I was 33 at the time, I'm 35 now, and I don't say "yes" to everything. I have to make sure it's something I truly think I'm going to be committed to, and after thinking about it, I decided it was something I was already passionate about anyway and was something I could definitely fit into my professional endeavors.
TPG: Who else is on the council?
DAWES: I've been working closely with Drew of course, as well as people like Grant Hill and Allyson Felix, just to name a few. There's a number of nutritionists, pediatricians, you name it. It's all about moving the President's goal of getting Americans fit, forward. It's about educating and empowering people about what physical activity looks like, and what proper nutrition is as well.
TPG: As for your non-gymnastic life, you were in a Broadway production of "Grease." Tell me about that experience.
DAWES: I was on Broadway for a little less than a year. It was an amazing experience. Everyone that was a part of the show, that I worked with, they were all definitely triple threats: Acting, singing and dancing. They were complete pros, and it was a great experience, but I probably won't do that again (laughs).
See Dominique Dawes in a spot for Citi's "Every Step of the Way" program: