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Dominique Dawes became the first African-American Olympic gymnast to win a medal in any individual gymnastics event. She took home the bronze medal in Atlanta for her floor exercise and a team gold medal. The three-time medal winner is also the only American to win medals in three Olympic gymnast games. Dawes has a permanent place in the Olympic Committee Hall of Fame.

A gymnast since age 6, Dawes has won more National Championship medals than any other athlete, male or female, since 1963. She was bullied as a child because of her small frame and tiny voice, but her physique and patience turned out to be her greatest assets.

During the Olympic Trials in 1992, Dawes suffered from tendinitis in both ankles and Osgood-Schlatter disease. Despite, she not only kept moving, but she even introduced a successful new move on the balance-beam. Her airy and charismatic technique led to her being dubbed a crowd favorite, often receiving a standing ovation for her performance. She won a spot on the team for the Atlanta games and became part of the “Magnificent Seven” women’s gymnastic team.

At age 23, Dawes decided to turn in her leotard to help train and motivate young gymnasts to reach their full potential. She has remained a mentor and trainer for young girls.

As the 2012 Olympic games unfold, a newcomer, 16 year-old Gabby Douglas, who is the only African-American on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team, will use inspiration from her role model, Dominique Dawes to compete in London. She has already succeeded against the reigning world U.S. Champion, Jordyn Wieber.