This week on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale hosted a very high-profile guest to talk about her conversion to the Faith and her story of athletic triumph in the Olympics. Dominique Dawes, also known as “Awesome Dawesome”, is a four-time Olympic medalist (one gold, three bronze), the first African-American woman to win a medal in artistic gymnastics, the first black person of any nationality to win a gold medal in gymnastics, a minority owner of the Washington Spirit and in 2010, was appointed the co-chair of the president’s council for fitness, sports, and nutrition alongside Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Besides having one of the most impressive professional resumes of any athlete under the sun (she also starred in the 1994 Broadway Musical “Grease”), she is a wife, a mother to four children, and a Catholic convert.
Dominique began the interview by talking about her childhood and what it was like growing up. She grew up in a Christian family, attending a nearby Baptist church on Sundays with her parents, cousins, and grandparents. However, as the years went on, she began practicing more inter-denominational Christianity because she lacked guidance in the years she lived with her gymnastics coach who did not “have faith in her life.”
This lack of spiritual guidance combined with the intense, non-stop training and performance for the Olympics led to a feeling of hunger in Dominique and she alluded to the type of confusion many Olympians experience when their careers end. Their identity has become so wrapped up in the 6-hour training days, the workouts, the pressure, and the expectations to win that they don’t know where to turn after it’s all over. In her late 20’s Dominique said she found her way to a Catholic church and she credits her Catholic grandmother for praying to God to guide her there.
Dawes knows firsthand how merciless the lifestyle of an Olympic athlete can be. Having to spend six, sometimes seven days a week in the gym pushing your body to its limit is not a healthy lifestyle for a young person. There’s an inability to focus on school, make friends, or experience life in the same way as other kids.
That’s why Dominique and her husband started the Dominique Dawes Gymnastics & Ninja Academy. “We wanted to create a healthier environment for the sport, one in which we’re empowering children, encouraging children, lifting children up. And it’s not just about being champions in the sport of gymnastics, but more importantly happy, healthy kids.”
She recalled the time in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when she was about to perform and the emotional pressure got the best of her and she broke down in tears. Amanda Borden, their team captain came over to her, knelt down, and said a prayer with her. She reminded Dominique that they would get through this together as a team and that God had gotten her that far and He wasn’t going to let it all end there. He would carry her the rest of the way.
Just a few years later, Dominique came to find a love for the Catholic Faith through St. Patrick’s Church in Rockville, Maryland. Though not Catholic, she often found herself sitting there in the silence because of how welcoming and open it felt to her. She didn’t have a mother figure she felt she could chat with so in talking with Our Lady, she was able to converse with the mother figure she always needed. She said of her time spent at St. Patrick’s, “I could sense that there was this calm and peace that I did not feel in my everyday walk in life and that it was nice to be reverent, and it was nice to not be known or on center stage and nothing was about me. It was about Him.”
After Dominique converted to Catholicism in 2013, she married her husband Jeff. She says her husband is the opposite of her, but ultimately the perfect match capable of bringing out the best in people. Cale remarked that the goal of a marriage is to help each other get to heaven and there is no better person to charitably nudge you in the right direction than your loving spouse. Dominique and Jeff are now the parents of four children: Kateri, Quinn, and the twins Dakota and Lincoln.
To listen to the full interview, click the link below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT