Dominique Dawes
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Dominique Dawes remembers being in Prince music video

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It’s October 1996, and Magnificent Seven gymnast Dominique Dawes‘ Orlando hotel room phone rings.

She picks up and listens to a deep, raspy voice on the other end.

“Someone that claimed to be Prince,” Dawes remembers.

She thinks it’s a prank. Dawes hangs up.

Soon after, Dawes receives another call. It’s her agent.

“That actually was Prince,” Dawes’ agent says, “so you might want to chat with him.”

Prince was calling to ask Dawes to perform in one of his music videos. They eventually spoke.

“He did say he’s a big fan, impressed with my gymnastics, something along those lines,” Dawes, now a mother of two, said in a phone interview Thursday.

Dawes, then three months separated from winning Olympic team gold at the Atlanta Games, jumped at the opportunity. She had heard days before the call that Prince was interested in having her in a video.

So when news broke Thursday that Prince died at age 57, Dawes immediately thought of that phone call in 1996.

“It was a surreal experience for a 19-year-old,” she said.

Dawes’ fondest memory was meeting Prince at Paisley Park in November 1996, one month after that phone call, to start shooting the video for “Betcha by Golly Wow!”

A gracious host, Prince asked Dawes if she wanted something to drink. Remember, this is Minnesota in November.

“The first thing that came to mind was hot chocolate,” Dawes said. “He took me to his kitchen, and he literally was mixing me up Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate. You’re thinking, doesn’t he have people to do that? I’m sure he did, but he was just mixing it up.

“I can’t say just how talented and how kind he was. He was like any other person, just down to earth.”

For the video, Dawes said she was instructed by Prince to “freestyle” as a dancer.

“And if you know any gymnast, we don’t freestyle very well,” Dawes said. “We’re very robotic. We have to be coached. So, he got me a choreographer. He found it comical that I didn’t know how to freestyle.”

The shoot lasted two or three days, but it wouldn’t be the last time Dawes and Prince saw each other.

She then started working on Broadway and living in New York City, where she was invited to private Prince concerts in the late 1990s.

Then last year, Dawes and her husband saw Prince perform around Washington, D.C., with about 200 others. Her husband found a way backstage, but Prince had just left.

“I would have loved to have seen him to say thank you for the opportunity in ’96,” Dawes said, “and thank you for the years allowing us to enjoy your gift.”

MORE: Romania Olympic gymnastics streak ends

2026 Winter Olympic host: Milan-Cortina

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Italy will host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with Milan-Cortina winning an IOC vote over a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm.

After Winter Games in Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022), they return to a traditional European site for the first time since Italy hosted in Torino in 2006.

The two bids were left after five others dropped out for various reasons, all in 2018: Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Sapporo, Japan; Graz, Austria and Sion, Switzerland.

With the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts both decided two years ago (Paris for 2024, Los Angeles for 2028), next up is the 2030 Winter Games. The U.S. has already said that if it bids, it will be with Salt Lake City, which held the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Italy will host the Winter Games for a third time after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Torino in 2006.

Its bid presentation Monday included all three Italian 2018 Olympic champions — Arianna Fontana (short track), Michela Moioli (snowboard cross) and Sofia Goggia (downhill). The presentation ended with 15-year-old short track speed skater Elisa Confortola addressing more than 80 IOC members.

Sweden has finished second or third in all seven of its Winter Olympic bid votes, including six straight from 1984 through 2002, according to the OlyMADMen. The Stockholm–Åre bid was trying to become the first Winter Games held in multiple countries, with Latvia holding bobsled, luge and skeleton.

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master schedule

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Japan’s gymnastics worlds team: no Kohei Uchimura, Kenzo Shirai

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Not only is Kohei Uchimura going to miss the world championships, but so is 11-time world medalist Kenzo Shirai.

Japan finalized its five-man team for October’s worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, following a national-level meet this past weekend. Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, was already out of the running, sidelined with his latest round of injuries.

Shirai, reportedly slowed by a left ankle injury this season, did compete this weekend. But he finished fifth on floor exercise and third on vault, his two best events, and did not earn one of the last two spots on the world team.

Uchimura, a two-time Olympic all-around champion with six world all-around titles, misses worlds for the first time since 2007. Shirai, a 22-year-old with four world titles between floor and vault, had competed in every worlds since debuting in 2013, just after his 17th birthday.

Without their two stars, Japan sends a relatively inexperienced team. Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa, both 22, are the only men who have been to a worlds (and were part of the 2018 silver-medal team). The youngest member is 17-year-old Daiki Hashimoto.

Japan has earned a team medal at every Olympics and world championships since 2003, a streak bettered only by the U.S. women.

MORE: Olympic gymnastics team sizes return to five for Paris 2024

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