You would have never known a low self-esteem was burgeoning for this Olympic gold-winning gymnast. Dominique Dawes was a champ, an icon, the first African American women to win an individual medal in gymnastics. After the lights were dimmed, Dawes wrestled with her value, but found hope. This was a prize that had more substance than any cover of a magazine and a plethora of medals--Jesus Christ was still her foundation. Dawes talks candidly about her struggles throughout her career with the hopes of inspiring a new generation of young women in her book Heart of a Champion. The co-chair of President Obama’s Councils on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, said that she doesn’t need to wear a leotard to influence others to greatness.
This is another chapter for Dawes. Lucky for us, her momentum is going to be a game changer for women years to come.
These are exciting times for you. You’re working with the White House and [currently] doing broadcasting.
And I’m not wearing a leotard (laughing)! I never thought that my gymnastics career would have morphed into what it has into. It’s been a dream come true to be able to impact people as you mentioned doing work with the White House and now working with FoxSports.com. It’s exciting to see that I took my love for the sport of gymnastics and transitioned it into something that is just as positive.
You’re pretty open in your book about struggling with self-worth.
I told the First Lady (Michelle Obama) before when she asked me how I overcame certain things. You know I told her faith did it. The thing is telling yourself that you’re dealing with self-esteem issues and certain fears. You kind of talk yourself out of that negative feeling. I think that’s a healthy way of dealing with issues.
Tell us how you battled low self-esteem?
As I young person I focused on the positive and what I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve by not dwelling on the what-ifs. Being a three-time Olympic athlete and a gymnast at that, I was very much a people pleaser when I was little. I never felt good about myself unless I was pleasing other people. …You can’t please everyone. And being now 35, the person I focus on pleasing is Jesus Christ.
What was the most challenging to your faith during your Olympic career?
You know if you’re in a competitive sport, they’re looking for a certain look. If you’re not that, it was very difficult. Also, again, [it] was the pleasing aspect. A lot of young people struggle with that and their peers. Young people today want to please their parents, peers, teachers and coaches. You have to be true to yourself as an individual and not morph into something that you’re not. Stand your ground and focus on what God desires for you.
Why did you decide to do this book?
Zondervan approached me and I always wanted to write a book. A number of publishers approached me throughout the years. I never felt that I was ready. Not that I didn’t have an inspiring story to tell. Parents have been reaching out to me to write a book geared towards their little girls, and their young sons.
What do you ultimately want teenagers to get from this book?
[I want them] to know my journey and how faith played a role in my journey. Being a three-time Olympian, it wasn’t always pleasant times. I think young people know that to achieve big goals you need to make sacrifices and they understand commitment. I not only want them to read this book for my story but the mindset that I had. Moments of insecurity, many times of doubt and many times I thought I was not good enough. I surrounded myself with positive people. I want them to understand the power of thought and to go after it and reach their full potential.