Post image for 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu dishes about Moving on and Becoming a Champion:  “I’ve been able to be tough in gymnastics and tough in life.”

1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu dishes about Moving on and Becoming a Champion: “I’ve been able to be tough in gymnastics and tough in life.”

by Maryann Pisano on September 29, 2012

Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu

Emme:  Before I start, I just want to tell you that you were my childhood hero!

Dominique Moceanu:  Thank you, I appreciate you telling me that!

Moceanu's Memoir: "Off Balance"

Emme:  I read that when you were 14 winning a gold medal meant something different to you than it does now.  So, how exactly did your feelings change?

Well at 14, it’s all that I dreamed of.  It’s the only thing I did in my life.  I strived to achieve that goal medal and that was the one main goal in my life.  Now, I have a different perspective and now I’m able to look back and understand the things that happened in my life and put that in perspective.  It still means a great deal to me because I finally accomplished that gold medal that I always dreamt of.  Part of me was extremely proud to represent my country with such an amount of pride, but on the other hand, my coaches belittled me for so long.  Even with a gold medal, it didn’t seem like enough to make them happy.  They had abandoned me at the Olympic games when I made some errors  because of the stress of my training.  They made me feel bad about myself at the time and part of me was overjoyed and it changed it my life, so of course I was happy to make history with my team, it’s apart of my life that I will remember forever.  I will cherish all the good memories and I have been able to write all of the challenges that I went through as a child.  But, it made me stronger to view it now and that was a golden moment in my life and I will not let these people hurt me like they used to.  As much as I was wearing my heart on my sleeve as a child and I looked up to my coaches, I wanted their approval so much that whatever they thought about me was how I felt about myself.  And so, at the time I let them guide that and dictate how I felt and of course I was overjoyed and happy but now I look back and I’m like, wow this has made me have a tough character.  And I’m proud to say I’m a proud  woman now because of all that I’ve experienced.  I’m able to help people and I think one of my goals is to help people with my story.  Since the Olympics I’ve become a mother, and felt in my career I’m able to appreciate the magnitude of what went down that night in Atlanta.  That was me, no one has done it before.  We were the best in front of the whole country and we finally broke through and able to win against our arch enemies, Russia and Romania.  We were able to break free and win that team goal and that changed gymnastics in the United States forever.  And, the bar is set really, really high.  And up to this year, no one has accomplished this yet.  It’s a very difficult title to win, now I really realize it more than ever.  With each passing moment I feel even more pride and more joy and I feel really good about what our team did and how hard we worked to get there.  It’s a special moment that we have forever.

"The Magnificent Seven"

Emme:  How did you overcome the physical and mental abuse from your coaches?  What did it take?

Well, certainly it relates back to my game.  I’ve been able to be tough in gymnastics and tough in life.  I finally was able to release those emotions.  I had oppressed them for a long time, but when I was 19 or so, I connected with my husband and he’s been a positive influence in my life.  To talk about the things that happened to me because for so long I’ve kept them quiet and hidden in this place.  And, it just wasn’t allowed to be talked about.  People didn’t talk about these things and in our family we didn’t discuss these things.  My husband understands and he knew what I’d gone through.  Little by little I would open and he would see how I would respond to competitions and things.  Little by little, he helped me find my love again.  He knew how talented I was and how much I devoted my life was to gymnastics.  He just didn’t want me to ever walk away from the sport without feeling fulfilled and accomplished because I had done so much.  He wanted me to remember that.  So, he remembered to plant little seeds of greatness and positivity in my life.  Reminding me that I was a champion and to not let these people who hurt me to continue to hurt me.  And, little by little I ended by realizing to move forward was to forgive.    And I forgave them.  Not for their sake, but for my sake.  In life, in order to move forward, you have to forgive so there’s no anger and deep resentment because it’s unhealthy to carry over as a mother to your family, to your husband.  I wanted to rid myself of the pain that I suffered from how these people treated me and continued to be glamorized on television.  I know they’re hurtful to the athletes and it hurts me that it continues to be celebrated and people know behind the scenes it’s not what they’re showing on TV.  So, I ended up forgiving and found a lot of healing with writing my memoir.  It’s a multi layered memoir, it’s not just a sports memoir.

Moceanu Performing in the '96 Olympics

What is your relationship like with your mother and your sisters Jen and Christina?

I’ve always had a great relationship with my mom.  We had disagreements like most kids do, but I’ve always had a good relationship with my mom.  She was passive and was in an abusive relationship.  I’ve always felt for my mother.  The inequality between a man and a woman in a Eastern European old school, old world mentality was very tough for me because I felt like it wasn’t balanced.  I always felt a woman should have a lot of respect in a home and one is not superior than the other.  But, she grew up in that kind of environment.  Her father was abusive to her mother, and the lineage kept going on.  I’m the first one to break that cycle of abuse and get out of that.  But, I always felt for my mother.  She’s a sweetheart and has a good heart.  Always compassionate for others.  I saw how much prayer helped her get through her hard times.  I have a special place for my mom and I think it shows throughout the book because I know all the things she went through.  Today, we have a very good, strong relationship.  My relationship with Jennifer is continuing to grow, although we live in different states but we try to keep each other informed and so we can be apart of each other’s lives and celebrate things that are going on in our lives together.  You know, my children get to know her so we really try to connect at least once a year in person.

Your life has been a fairy tale.  Tell me about your children.  Do you want them to get into gymnastics and the Olympics?

They’re already doing it!  That’s the beautiful thing as a parent.  You want to expose them to things and see what they latch onto.  My daughter she loves the trampoline and they are really gravitating towards it.  My son loves his gymnastics classes.  We introduced them  early on and I keep it light hearted and fun, and I don’t want them to get too serious too soon.  I know at some point if they choose to pursue this path, it will be at a much later time and I don’t want them to have to be too serious too soon and to have them grow up too fast.  But, I just want them to enjoy whatever they choose in life.  I’m really letting them lead the way.  My daughter does ice skating as well and she absolutely loves it.  So, who knows what they’re going to do!  That’s the beauty of watching them grow up and see what they’re drawn to.  I’m excited to see what they’re going to stick with.  But, as for now, as a parent I need to  just  make sure that they’re in a healthy and safe environment and a healthy place.  After that, it’s letting them choose their path and seeing where they gravitate to.

What are your biggest health tips?

Always remember that you have take care of yourself.  It’s so important to realize to get the gym and do the workout even if it’s outside or going to the park with your kids or walking them around the track.  Going to a facility where they have child care available if you have children.  You can get away from your electronics and social media because we’re so bombarded with it nowadays!  It’s so nice to not have to worry about that and just get a nice workout in for your mind, for your body, for your soul.  I really encourage to really get out there and stay fit.  Take care of yourself!  Because ultimately, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help others and you can’t help your children.  And I think I found the more I stay physically active the more I can do for my kids and the more I can conquer.  It seems so simple but it can get really difficult at times to make sure that you’re not putting yourself last as a mom and all of that.  Everybody else comes first, but really try to schedule yourself into the activities of the week and say that you’re going to work out at this time.  Be consistent, and really get to it.  You’ll really feel better about staying fit and healthy for yourself and for your family.

Moceanu with her sister Jen Bricker

Do you pursue gymnastics today?

Here and there.  I may do a little flip or so, but I do conditioning and strength when I [work out].  I’ll do stuff on the uneven bars, push ups, sit ups, which I really enjoy.  I enjoy stretching too.  Getting a good hamstring stretch!  I feel kind of like a gymnast again when I do that and it makes my whole body feel good!


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Laura Marcella October 1, 2012 at 8:28 am

Dominique is my all-time favorite gymnast! Her memoir was spellbinding. I’m so proud of how far Dominique has come since her gymnastics days. She was my role-medal back in 1995 when I was just 9, and she’s still inspiring me seventeen years later! Thank you for this wonderful interview. Happy (belated) Birthday, Dominique!!!


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