Competing in gymnastics, enduring constant training daily, getting through the national competitions, being part of a championship team, going to the Olympics, and winning the gold medal. Pretty tough work, all at the age of fourteen. Wow! Check out the story of Dominique Moceanu, who broke down barriers to become a champion. What a fantasy that is for so many of today’s athletic females — fame and fortune, celebrity, sponsorships, and maybe even a cover on the iconic Wheaties cereal box. One person actually accomplished all of this: Dominique Moceanu, who was a 1996 US Olympic gold medalist. But was it really worth it? How did Dominique handle the instant fame, the countless photo events, and the celebrity status? Read on and learn about Dominique’s unique perspective on what being a winner really means.
Now retired from competition, Dominique was part of the 1996 US Olympics gymnastics team, which was often called “The Magnificent Seven.” She was already used to winning — she won a spot on the US national team at the age of 10 and won silver medals at the 1992 Pan-American Games and 1994 Junior National Championships. She was also the youngest gymnast to win the senior all-around title at the US National Championships. After winning at the Olympics, she continued on to the 1998 Goodwill Games to become the first American to win the all-around gold medal.
She retired from competitive sports in 2000 due to various injuries. Commenting on the Olympics, she’s said, “You’ve accomplished so much, so early, that regular life is almost like a letdown.” She also added, “Everything revolved around gymnastics. What you ate, when you slept, the physical therapy you did, taking care of your body, and then all of a sudden, it stops, and no one helps you with your transition.”
Earlier in 1998,when she was seventeen, Dominique filed suit against her parents — alleging that they mismanaged her earnings to the tune of one million dollars. She won her case and settled the lawsuit. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. Her father, Dimitry — who was accused of inquiring about hiring a hit man to kill her coach and a close friend — was forbidden from coming near her. Dominique filed for, and received, a restraining order against her father for repeated harassing and stalking attempts. Dominique claimed that her father used to hit her if he felt she was gaining weight, or if he felt she wasn’t doing well enough at the gym. Speaking in an interview she said “I’ve never gone public with this and I never wanted to… this was something I kept private and I would have kept private. Some things are things you just keep for yourself and nobody needs to know.” She’s stated that she never stopped loving her father, that she feels her parents had nothing but the best intentions for her, but with more money comes more problems. Her parents denied any abuse. Dimitry passed away in 2008. In 2007, Dominique was alerted to the fact that she had a younger sister, Jen Bricker, whom her parents had given up for adoption because she was born without legs. Coincidentally, Bricker had performed as a professional acrobat and aerialist. Dominique is now happily married to a fellow gymnast, Michael Canales, who’s a surgeon. They have two children, and their son is already interested in gymnastics. Dominique has released an autobiography called Off Balance: A Memoir. In it, she describes the horrors of the verbal and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her trainer and father. She continues to advocate for reforms within the sport to help protect young gymnasts.