This article is sponsored by Citi
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dominique Dawes has a long list of gymnastics career wins. She is a three-time Olympian. She was a member of the “Magnificent Seven” from the 1996 Olympic Games, where the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team won their first ever Olympic team gold medal.
She won medals at the World Championships and in the U.S. Senior Nationals. At just 15-years old, she also was a member of the bronze medal-winning women’s gymnastics team that competed in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. She has been inducted to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, as well as the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
But the feat that Dominique considers her greatest athletic accomplishment may come as a bit of a surprise.
“Honestly, my greatest accomplishment was not winning at all. It was really failure at the sport,” she said recently at a Citi event in Washington D.C.
During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Dominique fell during the all-around competition and put at risk American hopes of a gold medal. The U.S. would ultimately prevail and win the gold, but the memory of the fall stuck with her.
It was “definitely something I did not plan to do. When people set their dreams and goals in this world, you don’t plan to fail. When you deal with that hardship, it’s how you bounce back and respond to it,” she said.
Dominique admits it took time to stop blaming other people and other things for that fall — the floor, the lighting, the judges or the audience.
“I finally admitted that it was something within myself. I didn’t work hard enough. I didn’t focus enough. Then that’s when I grew as an individual and I think that’s when I accomplished great things in the sport, because I became a stronger athlete and more importantly a better person of character. I do believe that my failure, coming back from it, was my greatest accomplishment,” she said.
A native of Silver Spring, Md. who has been competing since age 10, Dawes went on to medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, making her the first American gymnast to get a team medal at three different Olympic Games.
“For some reason I decided to get up off my rump at 23, after taking two years off, [and come back]. It was just a journey following my passion. I always had a love for gymnastics. I loved working hard. I loved competing. That’s really why I think I was able to qualify for three [Olympic Games], because I pursued what I loved to do.”
That love for gymnastics grew from Dominique’s relationship with her childhood coach Kelli Hill. It was one of Kelli’s lessons that really hit home for Dominique after her fall in Atlanta.
“One thing that my coach Kelli would always try to instill in all of us athletes [was] if you give 70 or 80 percent effort in life, don’t be surprised if you get 70 or 80 percent outcome. Though she had been preaching it to me since I was a young gymnast, it finally set in after I made that mistake at the Olympic Games, and I got it and I grew as an individual with a stronger character.”
In 2002, after her days of competing had passed, Dominique graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.
She became a motivational speaker and still found time to help instruct young gymnasts with the inspiring story of her comeback.
“It was a tough pill to swallow, but I learned a lot from it,” Dominique said of the fall. “I always encourage young people to make sure they are controlling their thoughts and thinking positively.”
President Barack Obama appointed Dominique and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to be co-chairs to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in 2010.
With the London 2012 Olympic Games just around the corner, Dominique has joined with Citi to help the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) on the development of brand new hot and cold plunge pools at their recovery center to help athletes during their recovery time.
She is one of 13 athletes whom Citi is sponsoring in its Every Step of the WaySM program. This innovative digital program benefits U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and athletes of all ages in communities across America by allowing fans to help allocate Citi’s ThankYou® Points to Sport Programs through activity on Facebook and Twitter, thereby giving Team Citi athletes the chance to say "thank you" to the Sport Programs that have inspired them.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of Team Citi 12 years removed from the Olympic Games,” Dominique said. “I’m blessed to have sponsorships that want to work with me and recognize that I can make a positive influence on others.”
Citi, a sponsor of Team USA, has launched its Every Step of the Way program with a $500,000 donation to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), represented by 50 million ThankYou® Points - the currency of Citi ThankYou Rewards. The unique Every Step of the Way program allows fans to help allocate these ThankYou Points to Sport Programs through activity on Facebook and Twitter.
The more fans participate through Facebook and Twitter, the more ThankYou Points they can direct to their Sport Program of choice, until its goal is reached. At the end of the program, the USOC will use Citi's donation to give the cash equivalent of the ThankYou Points directly to the Sport Program matched with the Team Citi athlete.