Dominique Dawes, part of the Magnificent Seven of the American women’s gymnastics lore, has posted another first. Along with her teammates from the women's gymnastics team of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, she is receiving her bronze medal in the women's team event—10 years after the fact.
On Tuesday, Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao was officially stripped off her Sydney 2000 Olympics bronze medal by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for being underage. With the disqualification of the Chinese gymnastics team that Fangxiao was part of, the medals went to the American runners-up by default. The American team included the now-retired Dominique Dawes, Amy Chow, Jamie Dantzscher, Kristen Maloney, Elise Ray, and Tasha Schwikert.
Dominique Dawes has been competing in the Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona games, where she entered at the age of 16—the IOC minimum.
Dawes earned the distinction of being the first African-American female to win an individual medal, which she won in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. She also captured the first U.S. gymnastics team Olympic gold medal in the 1996 games, as part of the Magnificent Seven.
Known for her 11-skill “up-and-back” tumbling pass that spanned the distance of the gymnastics floor, Dawes retired after the 1996 Olympics but returned to the floor with other teammates for the 2000 games.
Dawes worked with Yahoo Sports for the past two Olympics, including the Beijing games. In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, she revealed that she had heard rumors of Dong Fangxiao being underage at the Sydney 2000 games but shut them out of her mind in order to focus on the competition. Despite feeling vindicated in her newfound winning of the bronze medal, Dawes commiserated with her Chinese counterparts.
“It's the Chinese gymnasts,” she told Yahoo Sports. “The one thing that everyone's ignoring in this situation is that these gymnasts don't have a voice. … They're told that they're going to compete, and they're supposed to say they're a certain age, and it's sad.”
The Beijing Olympics were also rife with allegations of other underage Chinese gymnasts, most notably He Kexin. The Epoch Times was able to identify three official documents on the websites run by China’s official sports-governing body, as well as nine articles published in the state-run Chinese media 12 months prior to the Beijing games that listed He Kexin’s birthdate as Jan. 1, 1994. This date would have made her only 14 years old at the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The resulting International Gymnastics Federation probe, commissioned by the IOC, concluded that He Kexin's official China-issued documents were in order, but given the country's general lack of rule of law, this remains difficult to verify.