Ten years later, bronze 'special' for U.S. gymnast Dominique Dawes

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It may be 10 years since she competed in the Olympics, but gymnast Dominique Dawes is thrilled about the new medal she will soon add to her collection. Dawes and her teammates were given the bronze after China was stripped of their 2000 Olympic bronze medals because they fielded an underage competitor, Dong Fangxiao.

Dawes, who has worked with Yahoo! Sports for the past two Olympics, heard the good news from another reporter.

"I got calls from fellow reporters before receiving an email from the [Gymnastics International] Federation," Dawes told Fourth-Place Medal. "I also got a call by my coach, Kelli Hill, to congratulate me on the medal."

She said that getting the medal puts a positive ending on an Olympics that had been disappointing for Team USA, which had been shut out of medals.

"It was very difficult not just for the gymnasts, but the coaches as well. When we got to Sydney, we didn't have gold medal on our minds, but we knew there was a possibility for us to get on the podium. It is good to know that now, 10 years later, we did achieve the goal that we had set out to do."

In 2000, though there had been whispers about Fangxiao's age, Dawes avoided the gossip to focus on her performances.

"As an athlete, when you're competing, you're not focused on the things you can't control," Dawes said. "Of course, I heard about the speculation of the athletes being underage. However, once I heard it, I quickly forgot about it. It was really something I didn't want to affect my performance in a negative way."

Dawes contacted teammate Elise Ray immediately after hearing about the medal, and though both women are ecstatic, Dawes can't help but find it bittersweet.

"When I look at it, there are two things that bother me. One, my teammates. This is their first medal and they didn't get to stand on the podium and have those medals put around our necks and have America watching on TV and be so proud of them, and number two, it's the Chinese gymnasts. The one thing that everyone's ignoring in this situation is that these gymnasts don't have a voice. They don't have a say. They're told that they're going to compete, and they're supposed to say they're a certain age, and it's sad. They are stripping these athletes, and they don't have a voice."

Still, Dawes said that this win will hold a special place for her among her other accomplishments in gymnastics, which includes an Olympic gold, three Olympic bronzes and three world silver medals.

"It does definitely add something different and special. I had taken a year off prior to those Olympics, and I came back after just training for four months, and I really did it for the fans because they had been such strong supporters of me throughout my Olympic career. It really is a sweet moment for me, because I was 23, I was over-the-hill, I was done, and I was really saying farewell to the fans."

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