Dominique Moceanu: When Dominique “Domi” Dominated

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.

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32 Responses to Dominique Moceanu: When Dominique “Domi” Dominated

  1. Dave says:

    Wow, amazing story! I was reading a lot of Sports Illustrated for Kids back in those days, so I definitely knew about the Magnificent Seven, but had no idea about the legless daughter. That’s so crazy and amazing, and even more interesting that she ended up becoming an acrobat. Must be something genetic… I have legs and would never try that!

  2. Dave says:

    Strug was plucky! and TINY!!! I remember her having an amazing voice. What I didn’t remember (and had to look up) was that she was 4’8″. I haven’t been that height since I was 8 years old.

    • kerbey says:

      You think she’s still that height? I bet constant workouts must stunt them. I remember her squeaky voice and Saturday Night Live doing a skit of Bela saying, “You can do it, Kerri! You can do it!” How tall are you now?

      • Dave says:

        Just because I like you, I’ll be honest. I’m 6’0″ and a half inch. I usually tell people I’m 6’1″ though. Every man north of 5’10” says that he’s “six feet.” I think 6’1″ is man-code which means “I’m at least 6 feet without having to lie about it.”

        After that point, there’s no fudging numbers. A 6’2″ guy will always tell you he’s 6’2″, 6’4″ always means 6’4″.

        • kerbey says:

          I appreciate your honesty. Wikipedia says the average male height for 20-29 yr olds is 177.6 cm (5 ft 10 in), so you are still (as you know) above average. Even with the shrinkage that comes in later years, and by later, I mean 40 (my hub and I have already shrunk an inch), you will still be above average. And a doctor, so a bonus. I went on a date with a fellow in college who was 6’7″ and that was just too dang tall.

          • Dave says:

            Wow, that is very very tall! We have one 6’7″ guy, two 6’6″ and two 6’5″ guys in our med school class (only 124 people in the class, half of which are men). Freakishly tall class, all in all! The anatomy lab groups are arranged by height (so that the table isn’t too high or too low for anyone in the group), and I feel like I’m walking among a forest of trees when I walk past the tall group.

          • kerbey says:

            Yikes! They must be from the Netherlands. I read that the Dutch govt promised to change building regulations to increase the height of doorways, as the population keeps growing. How could they ever compete in gymnastics?

        • markbialczak says:

          Your guy-code honesty talk on height cracks me up, Dave. So vain we are! I’m 5-11 and curse the fact I’ve been unable to round up that extra inch my whole life. Dagnabbit. Every physical I stand as tall as I can against that wall, then whip around and look at the new-fangled tape measure to make sure it still touches 71 inches. Yup, 57 years old and no vertical shrinkage yet for this guy. 🙂

      • Dave says:

        .. and to be honest, I have no idea if she’s still that height.. A cursory Google search yields: 4’7.5″, 4’8, 4’8.5″, and 4’10” for Kerri Strug. I really have no clue how to tell the difference between 4’8″ and 4’10”. So let’s just say she’s very small!

  3. Arto says:

    This is at least our second article on the blog on successful Romanian immigrants (third if you count Dave’s cartoonist Hungarians as Romanian, and why shouldn’t we), and it’s a doozy!

    What a tale. Hitmen, legless gymnasts, Britney Spears, Olympics. Where’s the movie on this? Tanya Harding got nothing on this tale.

    • kerbey says:

      You just about gave me a heart attack; I thought you were going to say it was the second time we’d done Dominique, and my tail was about to curl under me.

      But yes, Tanya has nothing on this. And while on that subject, between Tanyas Tucker and Harding, there is a certain stereotype for that name, isn’t there? I don’t just mean blonde.

    • Dave says:

      Who was the other Romanian?

  4. markbialczak says:

    Wonderful story about wee Dominique, Kerbey, but I think we need to carry on with more serious dad-bashing here. I admire the way you sort of tiptoed on the balance beam yourself to call him a Class A Whole-Hearted Cad but let’s just drop the talk of class and heart and label him an a’hole cad.

    I’m so glad she met her older sister, who lived her adopted life and became an acrobatic star in the public eye on her own two arms. Take that a-hole cad.

  5. What an amazing story. And so cool the sisters were reunited.

  6. ksbeth says:

    what a happy ending to such an ominous beginning.

  7. wdydfae says:

    Let’s see . . . Yup, we got a real doozer here for our blurb generator.

    It’s as easy as one, two, twins! Just punch in “sports metaphors” (clickety clack) subcategory “gymnastics” (clackety click). And then we just switch it on and let the machine do all the work!

    “. . . Kerbey vaults that balance beam into a magnificent triple handstand . . .”

    “. . . Kerbey pummels that pommel horse over the high bar for a perfect nine . . .”

    “. . . once again, Kerbey proves she can takes that ribbon through the hoop and club those uneven bars into a flawless landing . . .”

  8. Liz says:

    little bit creeped out here with the story of those awful parents. Sheesh. Such high drama. Which is why we come to BoFN, is it not? Like a soap opera with reunited long-lost twins, one with no legs. Wow. Truth stranger than fiction by happy ending had by all. Great story, Kerbey. The comments were fun, too 🙂

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