Dominique Moceanu

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Dominique Moceanu
— Gymnast —
Dominique Moceanu.JPG
Moceanu on January 31, 2006
Personal information
Full name Dominique Helena Moceanu
Country represented  United States
Born (1981-09-30) September 30, 1981 (age 34)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Hometown Cleveland, Ohio
Discipline Women's artistic gymnastics
Level Senior international Elite
Years on national team 1992–2000, 2004–2006
Club LaFleur's; Karolyi's; Moceanu Gymnastics; Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy
Head coach(es) Béla and Márta Károlyi
Former coach(es) Jeff LaFleur; Béla and Márta Károlyi; Luminița Miscenco; Mary Lee Tracy; Alexander Alexandrov
Choreographer Geza Pozar, Dominic Zito
Music "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
Retired 2000; 2006

Dominique Helena Moceanu (born September 30, 1981) is a retired Romanian American[1] gymnast. She was a member of the Olympic Gold medal winning 1996 U.S. Women's Gymnastics team in Atlanta (the "Magnificent Seven").

The hallmarks of Moceanu's gymnastics, in the early stage of her elite career, were daring tricks on balance beam and spunky, inspired presentations on the floor exercise. Later, under the direction of new coaches, she developed a more elegant, mature style. Moceanu displayed a high level of difficulty and personality in her beam and floor exercises.

Moceanu trained under coaches Marta and Béla Károlyi, and later, Luminița Miscencu and Mary Lee Tracy. She earned her first National Team berth at age 10 and represented the United States in various major international competitions at the junior level. She was the all-around silver medalist at the 1992 Junior Pan Am Games and the 1994 junior U.S. National Champion. In 1995, at the age of 13½, she became the youngest gymnast to win the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships. She was the youngest member of both the 1995 World Championships team and the gold medal-winning 1996 Olympic squad, the Magnificent Seven, and was popular with both the public and gymnastics fans. She is the last gymnast to compete at an Olympic Games legally at the age of 14.

Moceanu's last major success in gymnastics was the 1998 Goodwill Games, where she became the only American to win the all-around gold medal. Family issues, coaching changes, and injuries derailed her efforts to participate in the Sydney Olympics, and she retired in 2000. Since then, she has continued to participate in gymnastics exhibitions, work as a coach, and pursue her post-secondary studies. She is currently married and a mother of two.

Early career and the Magnificent Seven[edit]

Moceanu was born in Hollywood, California to Romanian parents Dumitru (1954–2008), and Camelia (née: Staicu) (b. 1961).[2] She has two younger sisters, Jennifer Bricker, born October 1, 1987,[3] and Christina, born on August 24, 1989.[4] Her parents, who had both been gymnasts in their native Romania, had early aspirations for her gymnastics career: while she was still a toddler, they tested her strength by allowing her to hang from a clothesline.[5] Moceanu was raised Romanian Orthodox by her devout mother. Her faith figured prominently in her career as a gymnast. She said, " definitely helped me as an athlete to have [rosaries and prayer booklets] in my bag and feel safe."[6]

Moceanu began gymnastics classes in Illinois at age 3½[4] and later trained at LaFleur's club in Florida. In 1991 at age 10, she moved to Houston, Texas, where she became one of the last gymnasts to be trained by legendary Romanian coaches Marta and Béla Károlyi.[7] She began competing internationally at a young age, earning her first U.S. National Team berth in 1992.[5] At the age of 10½, in spring 1992, she earned five medals—gold in the team event, uneven bars, vault and floor exercise; silver in the all-around—at that year's Junior Pan Am Games.[4][8]

Under Károlyi's tutelage, Moceanu became the U.S. Junior National Champion in 1994. In 1995 she repeated her success as a senior, becoming the youngest gymnast ever to win the USA Gymnastics National Championships. She was also the youngest member of the American team at the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan. She did not disappoint, earning the highest American placement in the all-around competition and becoming the only American gymnast to win an individual medal, a silver on the balance beam.[7]

Moceanu's national and international successes, combined with her plucky, bubbly attitude, earned her attention and a wide fan base both in and out of the gymnastics community.[5] In the months leading up to the Atlanta Olympics, she was one of the most recognizable faces of USA Gymnastics, eclipsing more decorated teammates such as Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes. Before the Olympics, she was featured in Vanity Fair[9] and wrote an autobiography, Dominique Moceanu: An American Champion. The book was highly successful and ranked number seven on the The New York Times Best Seller list.[10]

Moceanu was expected to be a major medal threat at the 1996 Olympics.[5][11] However, following the 1996 U.S. Nationals, where she placed third in the all-around, she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right tibia.[12] Her injury forced her to sit out the Olympic Trials, and she was petitioned onto the team on the strength of her Nationals scores.[11][13]

At the Olympics, still struggling with her injury and sporting a heavily bandaged leg, Moceanu contributed to the team gold medal by turning in strong performances, good enough to qualify her for the event finals on balance beam and floor exercise. However, she faltered in the last rotation of team optionals, falling on both vaults and forcing the U.S. chances of a gold medal to rest solely on teammate Kerri Strug's final vault.[14] With Strug injuring herself in the successful attempt, Moceanu took her place in the all-around finals. Unfortunately, mistakes cost Moceanu a medal there, and she placed ninth. In the balance beam event final, Moceanu fell when she missed a foot on a layout and crashed into the balance beam on her head. She finished the exercise and went on to a strong performance in the floor finals later that day, finishing fourth and just missing a medal.[15]

Post-Atlanta career[edit]

Following the Atlanta Olympics, Moceanu participated in numerous events and professional gymnastics exhibitions, including a 100-city tour, before returning to competition. With the retirement of the Károlyis, she began training with other coaches at Moceanu Gymnastics, a gym constructed and run by her family.[7]

Out of peak form, Moceanu placed ninth at the 1997 U.S. Nationals. She participated in the 1997 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, leading a new and mostly inexperienced U.S. team. She was elected team captain, and qualified for the all-around final, but the competition was not a positive experience for her.

By 1998 however, Moceanu returned to top form. Under the tutelage of her new coach, Luminiţa Miscenco, she adjusted to a significant growth spurt and developed a clean, elegant style. She was selected for the American team at the 1998 Goodwill Games, where she became the only American to win the all-around title. In doing so, she defeated reigning World all-around champion Svetlana Khorkina and World silver and bronze medalists, Simona Amânar and Elena Produnova. She not only won the competition, she dominated the rest of the field, even outscoring the second place finisher and future 1999 World All Around Champion Maria Olaru by 0.687 points. Many consider this competition the highlight of her career.[7]

Training with Mary Lee Tracy at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy (CGA), Moceanu placed 8th at the 2000 U.S. Nationals. She qualified for the Olympic Trials, but was forced to withdraw with a knee injury.[16][17]

In fall 2000, Moceanu participated in a post-Olympics national exhibition tour.[18] She also participated in one of the post-Athens Olympics gymnastics tours in 2004, the "Rock N' Roll Gymnastics Championships".[19]

After a five-year hiatus from elite gymnastics, Moceanu announced a return to competition in 2005. However, injury kept her from competing in the 2005 Nationals. She remained committed to her comeback efforts, training on floor and vault.[7]

In summer 2006, Moceanu was invited to attend the USA Gymnastics national training camp. She also competed at the 2006 U.S. Classic, where she performed decently on vault, successfully executing a full twisting Tsukahara vault. On floor, she went out of bounds on her tucked full-in pass and fell on her double pike, posting one of the lowest FX scores of the meet.

In a decision that proved to be somewhat controversial, Moceanu was not able to qualify to the 2006 U.S. National Championships. She stated that she had been informed that she would advance to Nationals by attending the National Training Camp and competing at least one event at the Classic. Despite meeting these requirements, she was not able to qualify to Nationals based on her Classic performances, being told only after her performance that she had needed to compete in two events with a combined score of 28.0 or higher to qualify. She appealed this decision with USA Gymnastics, but the ruling was not overturned.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In late 1998, Moceanu left home and sued for legal emancipation from her parents in order to regain control of the money she had earned as a professional gymnast. In the resulting court case and television interviews, she stated that her father had squandered her sizable earnings and had an abusive, controlling nature. The court approved her petition for emancipation and control of her finances.[9][21] She eventually reconciled with both of her parents.[7]

Moceanu graduated in May 2009 with a business management degree from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.[22] She also coaches part-time at Gymnastics World in the Cleveland suburb of Broadview Heights and conducts clinics and private lessons around the country.[23]

On November 4, 2006 in Houston, Texas, Moceanu married long-time boyfriend, podiatrist Dr. Michael Canales, a former Ohio State gymnast.[24] On December 25, 2007, Moceanu gave birth to a daughter, Carmen Noel Canales.[22] Her second child, a son named Vincent Michael Canales, was born on March 13, 2009.[22]

In her book Off Balance, Moceanu shares that she had a younger sister, the aforementioned Jennifer Bricker, who was born without legs and was given up for adoption at the hospital at birth. Bricker, despite having no legs, is an acrobat and aerialist who idolized Moceanu before finding out they were sisters. In the book, she also states that Bela and Marta Karolyi were abusive and manipulative when she trained under them.[3][25]

Major results[edit]

  • 2000 US Championships: 8th AA
  • 2000 US Classic: 6th AA
  • 1998 Goodwill Games: 1st AA
  • 1998 US Championships: 3rd AA; 1st BB; 1st VT; 3rd FX
  • 1997 World Championships: 6th Team; 14th AA
  • 1997 US Championships: 9th AA; 2nd FX
  • 1997 International Team Championships: 2nd Team; 17th (two events only)
  • 1996 Olympic Games, Atlanta USA: 1st Team; 9th AA; 4th FX; 6th BB
  • 1996 US Championships: 3rd AA
  • 1995 World Championships, Sabae JPN: 3rd Team; 5th AA; 2nd BB; 7th FX
  • 1995 US Championships: 1st AA; 2nd FX; 3rd VT; 5th BB; 6th UB
  • 1995 US Classic: 2nd AA
  • 1994 US Championships: 1st AA (junior)
  • 1993 US Championships: 7th AA (junior)
  • 1993 US Classic: 8th AA (junior)
  • 1993 US Olympic Festival: 12th AA
  • 1992 Pan American Games: 1st Team, VT, UB, FX; 2nd AA
  • 1992 US Championships: 5th AA (junior)
  • 1992 US Classic: 10th AA (junior)
  • 1991 US Classic: 7th AA (junior)


  1. ^ "Gymnast Pursues 2nd Act" Bonnie DeSimone, Chicago Tribune, June 26, 1996
  2. ^ "Dominique Moceanu's Smile Is Real. She Loves To Perform" Diane Pucin, Philadelphia Media Network, August 17, 1995
  3. ^ a b Lynn, Allison (June 8, 2012). "Champion Gymnast's Hidden Life: Dominique Moceanu on Secret Sister". ABC News. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Moceanu's profile at USA Gymnastics
  5. ^ a b c d "Even at Age 13, a Storybook Career Is Emerging" New York Times, August 17, 1995
  6. ^ "Magnificent" Faith, an interview with Dominique Moceanu on Patheos
  7. ^ a b c d e f "IG Online interview: Dominique Moceanu" International Gymnast, 2005
  8. ^ "Chatting with Jennie and Dominique" Nancy Raymond, International Gymnast, March 1993
  9. ^ a b "Gymnast Mocenanu is down but ready to bounce back" Chicago Sun-Times, December 19, 1999
  10. ^ Dominique Moceanu : An American Champion. Dominique Moceanu, as told to Steve Woodward. BT/Yearing, 1995, ISBN 0-613-07635-4
  11. ^ a b "The Next Nadia?" Jamie Aaron, Associated Press, 1996
  12. ^ "Magnificent" Faith, an interview with Dominique Moceanu on Patheos
  13. ^ "Star-studded Women's team heads for Atlanta" USA Gymnastics press release, June 30, 1996
  14. ^ "Kerri Strug fights off pain, helps U.S. win gold" Rick Weinberg, ESPN
  15. ^ Event finals notes USA Gymnastics, 1996
  16. ^ Transcript of Moceanu press conference at USA Gymnastics August 17, 2000
  17. ^ "Injured Moceanu forced out of competition" Selena Roberts, New York Times, August 18, 2000
  18. ^ "After Success In 1996, Gymnastics Tour Looks For Even Bigger Results" Mary Wade Burnside, Amusement Business, September 25, 2000 Archived November 9, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "After the Gold Rush" E.M. Swift, Sports Illustrated/CNN, October 4, 2004
  20. ^ "Moceanu grievance denied" International Gymnast, August 10, 2006
  21. ^ "Gymnast Moceanu Gets Order Of Protection Against Father" Jere Longman, New York Times, December 1, 1998
  22. ^ a b c Dyball, Rennie. "Olympic Gymnast Dominique Moceanu Welcomes Baby No. 2". People. Retrieved March 14, 2009. 
  23. ^ CBB Exclusive: Going for (baby) gold with Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu Jennifer Parris, Celebrity Baby Blog, 2007
  24. ^ Haederle, Michael (November 5, 2006). "Gymnast Dominique Moceanu gets married". People. 
  25. ^ Video, requires flash "Olympian idolized by secret, legless sister". CNN. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 

External links[edit]