As a young black gymnast, Dominique Dawes was my idol. As a child my walls were bare except a big Dominique Dawes poster squished by my bottom bunk, wishing me goodnight and reminding me what excellence could look like.
Like most children I looked for representations of myself, and was lucky enough to live in a place where I could find them. They added the black American girl doll (Addy) during my childhood, I had a great black power library by my house, and a school full of educated and progressive teachers who knew that Black history was American history. I knew of Nadia Comenici of course, and did book reports on Olga Korbut and Mary-Lou Retton (same year I did a report on Josephine Baker) but no one held a candle to ‘Awesome Dawesome’.
Ultimately I was far too tall to be a great gymnast. Even the tallest gymnasts I saw on TV, who seemed to tower above all the others, was Svetlana Khorkina who clocked in at a whopping 5′ 5″. By 5th grade, I was 5′ 7″ Though it took me years to realize it, it just wasn’t meant to be.