Do you remember that amazing vault that Kerri Strug did at the 1996 Olympics? I remember it like it was yesterday, up late at night, riveted to the TV. The diminutive Dominique Moceanu had faltered in the last rotation of team optionals, falling on both vaults and forcing the chance of a USA gold medal upon Strug’s final vault. Injured and limping from her first attempt, the plucky Strug pushed forward to make Olympic history.
But Strug was just one of the amazing girls on the USA gymnastics team, called The Magnificent Seven, including double Dominiques: Dawes and Moceanu. While there are men named Dominique (basketball players Dominique Wilkins and Hawkins, chef Dominique Ansel, actor Dominique Horwitz, and football player Dominique Barber), these two were clearly female. The littlest (Moceanu) is today’s focus.
Dominique “Domi” Helena Moceanu was born in Hollywood in September 1981 to Dumitru and Camelia Moceanu. Both had been gymnasts in their native Romania and pushed Dominique to excel in the sport, starting her in classes at age 3. She strengthened her toddler arms by hanging from a clothesline. In 1987, a sister was born without legs, and subsequently abandoned at the hospital. Father Dumitru purportedly said they could not afford treatment for her, but one wonders if they didn’t want to waste their time on a child through whom they could not live vicariously. In 1989, another sister was born, Christina, with both legs in tact, so they kept her.
With money saved from not having to raise the legless daughter, her parents filled the gas tank and drove Dominique to Texas when she was 10, to try out for Béla Károlyi, the renowned Romanian coach who had trained Olympic champions Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton. Under his coaching, Dominique won the U.S. junior national all-around title in 1994 and individual silver on the balance beam at the 1995 World Championships. Next stop: the 1996 Olympics to taste the victory of gold!
By the age of 17, Dominique had had it up to here with her parents, who had evidently squandered her fortune. So she legally emancipated herself from her them, and got a restraining order against her father, who may or may not have hired a hit man to kill two of her close friends. Pardon? Oddly, they later reconciled and Dumitru walked her down the aisle at her 2006 wedding to a podiatrist and former gymnast.
Meanwhile, her first sister, given the normal name of Jennifer Bricker, was being raised by two loving adoptive parents. Despite having no legs, she excelled as an acrobat and played many sports. She grew up idolizing Dominique, whom she’d seen on TV. When she was 16, her parents revealed that Dominique was actually her sister. Oh, snap! Four years later, she wrote her a letter, and the two finally met.
Bricker has since toured the world as an aerialist with Britney Spears, and Dominique, with her days of competition behind her, got a degree in business management and coaches part-time gymnastics. She enjoys raising her two children and hopefully isn’t hanging them on clotheslines.