The Evolution of Power unites Nadia Comaneci, who in 1976 became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 score in an Olympic gymnastics event, Dominique Dawes, who 20 years later in 1996 became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in women's gymnastics, and Simone Biles who just became the first woman to win four consecutive national championships in more than 40 years.
I sat with Nadia and Dominique as they shared their thoughts about the project, power, and the next generation of athletes.
Tell me how you three were brought together to do The Evolution of Power video and your initial thoughts about the project.
Dominique: I believe the celebration of the Evolution of Power with Nadia, myself as well as Simone Biles makes perfect sense. All of us athletes look up to athletes like Nadia, being the first to ever earn a perfect 10 in 1976. She was not only so graceful, but she was strong and powerful as well. 20 years later I was a part of an amazing Olympic team that made history by winning gold, and then being the first African-American to win an individual medal on floor exercise, and I think throughout my career I was known to be a very strong and fierce competitor on the floor exercise as well as the balance beam. Last but not least is Simone Biles, who is just wowing the crowds today. She just won her fourth national championship consecutively, and we expect great things to come from her in Rio as well. It's just all about focusing on the evolution of the sport of gymnastics during those 40 years.
Nadia: First of all I think it's great that we are together, and have gone so far in celebrating this. As Dominique said making history, for me it was 40 years ago, and the video just shows the evolution of how gymnastics has changed. It reminds people of how it started, where it went, and where it is right now. Simone Biles is small and strong, and she is making history today. This is the message of this entire celebration we are doing with Tide Pods.
What do you hope for the video to convey, especially to women and girls?
Dominique: Nadia has had the opportunity to inspire millions of people, I've had the opportunity to inspire thousands [laughs], but we just hope that it's a way for young girls to see Simone Biles, and for people to recognize that she is going to inspire millions as well. It's also to showcase what each of us as individual athletes has brought to the table and the impact that it has had, not only in the world of gymnastics but the world of sports.
Nadia: And just the fact that anybody anywhere can be a champion.
How have you empowered others through your legacy?
Nadia: For me, it was that I was doing gymnastics during a time when there were not too many opportunities for girls to play sports. I'm hoping that I opened some doors at that time and could motivate a lot of kids to play sports and to have the confidence to do something great in their lives.
Dominique: For me, being one of the first African-Americans to qualify for an Olympic [gymnastics] team in 1992 when I was 15, and then earning gold and bronze medals in 1996 really opened the eyes of a number of minorities to see the sport of gymnastics as an opportunity for them to excel. I know Gabby Douglas has done that as well today, and Simone Biles will do the same.
How do we teach the next generation of women to find their power?
Nadia: It's through sports, sports is the catalyst for everything. That's why we tell kids just be busy, and to go and play any sport because they may not know which one is right for them. But they should get busy and play around and just have the experience. We all watch the Olympics and get motivated. It teaches us that you don't have to be born in a particular place on the planet to be the best. So anybody, anywhere in the world can do that.
Dominique: I always try to get parents to instill that in their young kids. To get them involved in sports. Sports are the way to go in my opinion. Even if you don't win all the time you learn so many life lessons, qualities, and strengths that you can use for the rest of your life. And as a mother of two kids, I have a two-and-a-half-year-old and a nine-month-old, I do really believe what makes me a good mom are all of the qualities I learned in my 18-year career in the sport of gymnastics. Training day in and day out, learning about passion and setting goals, and learning to persevere and not quit, to have patience and vision. These are all qualities I gained through the sport of gymnastics, and I believe the next generation of young people can learn that in their sports participation as well.
If you could go back to the time when you were training for your first Olympic competition, what advice would you give yourself?
Nadia: I think I did a pretty good job, so I don't know [laughs]. I wouldn't give a lot of advice, because maybe if I did the results would be different. I think that what is important though is to never lose passion and love for what you do and to commit all the way, and to surround yourself with good people.
Dominique: I was a very fearful child, and I had low self-esteem, so the advice I would have given myself would be to love myself. I was going through a very difficult time in my personal life. My parents were going through a tough divorce, so I probably would have learned to love myself and appreciate the gifts that God blessed me with, and to truly feel as if I deserved to be on that Olympic team. I think a lot of young kids struggle with that. They don't think they are good enough. They don't think that they deserve to achieve certain things, and I think you win and lose first in your mind. That's the only way to achieve, and if you don't believe it more than likely it's not going to become a reality.
You two are living legends, and Simone, who is featured in the video, is a legend in the making. Who are the legends in your life?
Nadia: My parents. I was lucky to be shown a direction in my life. My mom was the one who first took me to the gym because I had too much energy and I was breaking the furniture [laughs]. She thought it was a temporary thing for me, but it wasn't quite temporary. I went all the way with it.
Dominique: For me, it would be my coach Kelli Hill. She was an inspiration for me. I moved in with her when I was a young child so I could get to those 6 a.m. morning training sessions before going to public school, then come back to the gym for 5 more hours at night.
What advice do you have for the next generation of women athletes?
Dominique: It would be to pursue their passion, and to have a passion for what you're doing. Love what you do, love yourself, and recognize that it's not just about you especially when you get to the Olympic and professional level. There is a whole younger generation that is looking to you and wanting to model themselves after you. People need to recognize that their words and their actions or inactions can truly change the lives of many. So make sure that the decisions that you make are a reflection of who you want to portray yourself to be. Be a good role model.
Nadia: Enjoy the journey, and try to be just a little better every day.