American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes has offered poignant commentary on Gabby Douglas’s performance at the 2012 Olympic Games. Dawes’s pride and clear support for her younger colleague is refreshing in light of the pointless (social) media contests between athletes from different eras who cannot test their (e-)theories through today’s games. While I agree with Kobe Bryant’s claim that the 1992 Dream Team was a better team than the 2012 group and that this year’s group could beat them (certainly the 2012 could have won a game or two), the debate quickly goes stale; of course you wouldn’t think so if you read the Sports pages. They seemed to find every player from the 1992 team and every player who practiced against them for a statement. Journalists and former athletes discussed Kobe’s views for days–that is until Hope Solo gave them a reason to write about another intergenerational battle between impossible contestants. Thus, between the pitch and the broadcasting booth Brandi Chastain’s commentary on the U.S. Soccer team’s play prompted Hope Solo to tweet her displeasure at her predecessor’s views. Following these sporting unpleasantries, the graciousness Dawes has shown in welcoming Douglas into the unfolding story of Olympic glory provides a wonderful example of the possibility of communion among even competitive spirits.
I read interviews with Dawes before Douglas won gold in the individual all-around and her remarks were heartening indeed. She clearly supported Douglas and wanted her to excel. After Douglas won individual gold, Dawes’s response couldn’t have been more touching if Hallmark scripted it. Go to her website and check it out for yourself: http://www.dominiquedawes.com.
Not only do women get a bad rap for not being able to get along, but women athletes can become a figure for dramatizing this stereotype. Unfortunately, Hope Solo’s undisciplined tweets only reinforce an already limited notion of women’s interactions. What I have always liked about the Williams sisters contests is that their rivalry has always shown that women’s relationships with one another hold promise for reconceptualizing how we consider the pursuit of goods in limited supply. Unlike formative tales of men and brothers like Cain and Able or Romulus and Remus who plot their brother’s demise, Venus and Serena Williams enable a new vision for imagining our foe’s end. Venus lost in individual play so we will not have the opportunity to watch she and Serena battle it out as opponents in London for a gold medal. As teammates, they will compete together for a medal in doubles play. Their example, however, brings into focus the interaction between Dawes and Douglas. So far, they have shown that the possibility for elegance and grace exists where strife typically reigns; they have shown how beautiful it is when support is given rather than begrudged. Gabby Douglas still has two more chances to win gold, and while we don’t know what the outcome of those challenges will be, we do know that Dominique Dawes will be in her corner cheering her on and thus offering us another model by which to live.