For those of us who grew up watching Dominique Dawes, Gabrielle Douglas' win in the women's gymnastics all-around competition completes a journey that started in the early 90s when we were just tweens. That's when we got hooked on gymnastics and watched every moment that was broadcast on national television. For a brief moment, I even wanted to be a gymnast. But I soon realized that twelve was just too late to start a journey toward the Olympic Games.
Even for those who couldn't dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast, Dawes gave us hope that we could accomplish things in sports and careers where there are no African-Americans.
Dominique Dawes also got me into the Olympic sport and the Olympic Games. She kept me on top of Olympic sport during the years when most people forget about it. Whether it was the national championships, the American cup, or the World Championships, I watched every minute of it to support her. I have vivid memories of an early Saturday morning when I watched Dawes lose the 1993 World Championships because she sat down on a vault.
By the 1996 Olympic Games, she was still in top form but not enough to win the all-around title. She came away with a team gold and an individual bronze. I was happy for her, but for me her Olympic journey didn't feel complete.
After Dominique Dawes retired, I didn't follow the sport closely. I didn't even follow the journey of Gabrielle Douglas. In fact, I didn't learn of Douglas until May of this year. I walked into the bathroom of an arena in Chicago and saw her fronting the advertisement of a gymnastics meet to be held in Chicago. I thought to myself, "is there another black girl in gymnastics now?" Even though I ingrained the image of her in my head, I sill didn't actively seek out information about her.
I watched her win the Olympic Trials in June but even though I was going to London for the Games, I didn't think to attempt to get tickets to the All-Around final. Getting gymnastics tickets from CoSport is an impossible feat, really only possible for those with the money -- $600 or more -- to get them.
After the team qualifications it finally clicked into my head. Gabrielle Douglas could possibly win the All-Around final and I could possibly see something I have wanted to see since I was 15 years old -- a black girl win the Olympic All-Around gymnastics final. And I could see it in person.
My hunt for one ticket to woman's gymnastics all-around final began.
I took my hunt to twitter. The first tweet I saw offered me a ticket for £250, the equivalent of $391. I just couldn't do it. I reached out to my social media family and asked them how much they would pay to see Gabby Douglas. My aunt Minnie, responded with $325, but even she didn't think that tickets at that price were available.
On the day of the event, a new twitter friend, @sukpatel, offered me 4 tickets for £1000 pounds or 1 ticket for £295 pounds, or $461. Was watching Gabby win worth that much? I quickly had to make a decision on how much I was willing to pay for the ticket. I decided to ask @sukpatel if he would take £60 off if I photographed his family. He agreed. I was down to £235, or $367.
By the time Suk and I agreed on the price, it was noon and the competition started at 4:30pm. I jumped in the shower and ran out the apartment on the way to the North Greewhich arena. I was going to see Gabby Douglas possibly win a gold medal!
I met Suk at the 02 shop in the arena. We had a hoot hanging out and chatting about the Games. Check out this video I took with him below about him getting all his tickets for the Games.
During the competition, Gabby led on each rotation. Each time she went up, whether the uneven bars, balanced beam, the people in my seating area, all Americans, cringed with fear. We held our breath until she finished every routine. By the time she performed on the floor exercise, I knew she had it in the bag. This win made me feel so good that my sports experience at the Olympic Games is complete. I feel satisfied, having watched Gabby become the first African-American to win the Women's All-Around competition. I don't need to see another sport at the Games (though I have about 5 more events to see).
Although Gabby was the winner, I couldn't stop thinking about Dominique Dawes, and how she paved the way for Gabby and started my obsession with Olympic Sport. Gabby also closed a chapter in my life. She won the Gold Medal that I wanted Dominique to win. Now she's getting young black girls into Olympic Sport and showing them that they can do anything with hard work.
Thank you Dominique. Thank you Gabby.
Follow Kiratiana Freelon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kiratiana