When training and competing for multiple world championships, Olympic trials and eventually three Olympic games, 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes devoted her life to gymnastics.
“I was passionate about what I was doing,” she said during a speech to a crowd at Plachta Auditorium in Warriner Hall Wednesday night.
Nearly 400 people attended the talk, according to Program Board officials.
Dawes said she practiced every day, waking up at 5 a.m. on weekdays, going to school during the day, then practicing again after school and taking up to five hours a day on weekends, too. All to reach her dreams.
Even though she was passionate about the sport, she said she constantly talked herself out of competing in gymnastics during her career.
“I made an unconcoious decision that I was not good enough,” said Dawes, the women’s team artistic all-around gold medal winner said. “There weren’t a lot of African-American gymnasts around that I could look to and say ‘Oh look, she did it so I can do it too.’”
She said her coach motivated her with a simple message.
“My coach would always tell me, she called me Dom, that ‘Dom, your mind controls your body.’”
The purpose of her talk was to speak about how powerful the mind is, she said.
“You can walk into any situation in life and your mind can deter you from getting something positive from it,” she said.
Dawes said your mind can either help you or hurt you.
“There is no in-between,” she said. “Your mind does control it. It starts with your mind.”
She said people should have someone around them that inspires them.
“People that expect more from you than you expect from yourself,” she said.
Dawes also took questions from the audience and via Twitter, spanning from her time as a part of the Magnificent Seven to her work with the Obama Administration on health and fitness and other topics.
“I have been speaking out on physical activity,” she said. “The number one focus is on education and number two is empowerment.”
Dawes is the co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, of which she was appointed in 2010.
Plymouth senior Emily Lafontaine said she thought the message of mind-controlling body was important.
“You determine a lot of what you can and can’t do just by your thoughts,” Lafontaine said. She competed in the floor and bar events during her freshmen year.
Jordan Charrette, a St. Clair Shores freshman, said the mind and body aspects of Dawes’ speech was interesting.
“What you put into your head is what you’re going to get out of your day,” Charrette said. “It’s something so simple that everybody can do just to improve mentally.”