By Judy Kurtz - 07/25/12 09:59 PM EDT
For someone who grew up just minutes from Washington and is about to join first lady Michelle Obama as part of the U.S. delegation to the 2012 Olympic Games, Dominique Dawes is remarkably nonpolitical.
The Silver Spring, Md., native and Olympic gymnast says there are no lawmakers she would like to teach to twirl on the balance beam or tumble on the floor mat.
It may be good news for Capitol Hill hopefuls that Dawes says she has no political aspirations — the four-time Olympic medal winner is used to setting a goal and achieving it.
“When I was younger, it was we’d wake up around 5, train from 6 to 8 in the morning. The majority of the time I was in high school … I was going to school from 8:30 to 2:30, and then back to gymnastics again 3 to 8 p.m. at night,” Dawes recalled in a phone interview with ITK.
At 15, she won bronze at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She would go on to win three more Olympic medals, including a gold with the 1996 gymnastics team dubbed the “Magnificent Seven.” She says of her teammates, “Those girls are six of the most talented girls that I’ve ever competed with or against.”
She still gets called “Awesome Dawesome,” a nickname she earned as a leaping and somersaulting wunderkind, saying with a laugh, “It is catchy and I like it. And the fact that people still say it now that I’m 35 amazes me.”
Dawes says in the days leading up to the Olympics, which begin Friday night and will air on NBC, the athletes are likely tackling a bad case of the butterflies. “I know they’re a little antsy, feeling the pressure. But I hope each and every one of them are taking in this moment knowing it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it’ll be like no other.”
Although she competed in her last Olympics in 2000, the gymnast isn’t staying away from the London Games. She’s excited to cover men’s and women’s gymnastics for FoxSports.com, calling the U.S. men’s team “really exciting to watch.” She says of the new crop of female Olympic medal hopefuls, “I just saw one of my Olympics teammates from 1996 … and I was like, ‘Thank goodness I’m retired.’ And she agreed with me, because these girls are phenomenal.”
After decades of twisting and turning her body to reach the top tier in her sport, Dawes is finally giving her bones a bit of a reprieve — well, sort of.
The three-time Olympian, who still lives right outside Washington, recently teamed up with Hormel Natural Choice, and has been touring the country with the company, talking to kids about fitness, self-esteem and nutrition.
“Just today I was doing an event with Hormel Natural Choice and the kids kept asking me to do a flip. And I don’t know why I always give in, but I did a flip and my back hurts right now. And this always happens, that I’ll do a flip and I think I feel good, and then all of a sudden I realize I jarred my spine,” she exclaims.
When we noted that it’s pretty impressive she can still manage to do a flip in the first place, she chuckles, before adding of her aching back, “That reminds me how I’m happy I’m done, and that I shouldn’t be doing it anymore. But I guarantee you at 55, if the kids ask me to flip, I’m probably going to do it again.”