Gymnastics is all over the news right now.. and it's once again heavily based on the mental toll the sport has on the athletes. As a former gymnast, I know how it still affects me on a daily basis.. though I've always thought of the effects as being mostly positive. After talking to Dominique Dawes, it was like a therapy session where I realized there are maybe more ways my very tough coaching/upbringing is still affecting not just me, but everyone I deal with on a daily basis.
Dominique produced [with Lebron James] the "Golden" documentary, about elite gymnasts including Suni Lee and MyKayla Skinner. [it's fantastic by the way. Even my fiancé, who really hates when it's gym season and I want to watch it, fully enjoyed learning about the life gymnasts lead.] In the doc, Dom said something that gutted me. She, one of the most famous, successful gymnasts of all time, said none of it was worth it. The gold medals, the fame, the money, the gym that she's now running... NONE of it is worth it because of the mental and physical torture she went through. It was like hearing that your hero is a bad guy. That your hero doesn't like saving people or doing whatever it is that you admire so much. It was tough.
She explained that the guilt she feels when so many moms, daughters, people come up to her and say "I got into gymnastics because of you, and this [insert horrific story here] happened to me" is what's so hard for her to deal with. Youch. and it's definitely not uncommon to have bad stories; the very beginning of our conversation was me talking to her about all of my coaches that have been put in jail.
Now the sport of gymnastics seems to be changing. Coaches are tough but loving and seemingly more understanding. Girls are speaking up. and Dominique is building a new kind of gym atmosphere from the ground up. Without a competing team, they're keeping it fun, and making sure the coaches that work there actually like kids. What a concept, huh?!
This conversation is a bit selfish for myself and gymnasts everywhere, but I think it's also insightful for everyone, and we do get into the fun stuff like the parties that go down in the Olympic Village, and the one Olympic moment that means the most to her.