Entertainment Sports Dominique Dawes Reveals What She Thinks Needs to Change About Gymnastics "We need to make this sport healthier, we need to make this sport a little bit more compassionate," Dominique Dawes said By Nicholas Rice Nicholas Rice Instagram Twitter Associate Editor, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 25, 2021 10:53 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Dominique Dawes is speaking candidly about the current state of gymnastics. While making an appearance on PeopleTV's Reality Check, the 44-year-old retired gymnast opened up about her beloved sport and what she thinks still needs to change within it. "You know, it's such a popular sport but I would say the biggest change needs to happen today and we need to change the culture of the sport of gymnastics," she told host Daryn Carp. Mentioning her forthcoming Peacock docuseries Golden, the athlete said that fans may "be a little concerned" for the gymnasts and "their physical, their emotional and their psychological health because of the enormous amount of pressure, the anxiety, the fear [they experience]." "You hear it in their voice, you hear it in the words that they speak. They're under a microscope and they are concerned about every move that they make. That needs to change, it is so unhealthy" she added. "These are young girls, these are teenagers, these are young 20 year olds and we need to make this sport healthier, we need to make this sport a little bit more compassionate, and we need to lift up their self-esteem and not tear them down." Jade Carey Says Simone Biles Reminds Gymnasts to 'Have Fun' amid Pressure: 'She's Really Awesome' David Madison/Getty Images When asked what it is like for her to be the reason why "so many women of color took up gymnastics," Dawes — the first Black woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics in gymnastics — said, "I do feel honored, I feel very humbled to be a trailblazer, to be one of the first to pave the way." "However, I will say I have done nothing for these athletes today to get them where they are," she continued. "It's their hard work, it's their talent, it's their commitment, and I am truly honored to have met them and know that my little kids — I have four little kids — they look up to them and are so excited ... and so I feel so honored to have maybe planted a little seed of hope in each and every one of them." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. As for the "biggest misconception" that people have of gymnasts, Daws said, "I think that many times, or at least back in the day, we were very robotic. You really didn't see a lot of our emotion." "We would say things that were very diplomatic and controlled, and these athletes today are willing to speak their mind a little bit more, they're willing to trust their feelings," she added. "They recognize that their truth matters. That's what I love about Simone Biles ... she's speaking out and she's trying to enforce change in this sport." RELATED VIDEO: Dominique Dawes Weighs In on the 2020 Summer Olympics Expected to Happen This Year During her Reality Check appearance, Dawes also chatted about the upcoming Olympic Games and what her take on the event is. "I couldn't imagine these athletes, where they're uncertain if they're going to make the Olympic team, but they're also uncertain if there's even going to be an Olympic Games that's going to go on," she continued. "That has to be really hard." "So my advice to all the athletes there, and I think they know this, [is to] just focus on the things that they can control, their training, their mindset, be physically prepared," Dawes added. "And we pray the Olympic Games do go on because we really need this for, not just our country, we need this for our world. We need to celebrate the achievements of all these amazing women, all these amazing men, and that will bring the world together." Noting that she thinks this year could see "the most watched Olympic Games ever," Dawes also said that she thinks "people will feel that celebration worldwide."