Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dominique Moceanu

The youngest ever gymnastics gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics, Dominique Moceanu, was born to  Romanian parents Dimitry and Camelia Moceanu on September 30, 1981 in Hollywood, California. With both of her parents being gymnasts her talents were recognized very early on. At the age of 3 she began taking gymnastics training classes, and by the age of 10 had started professional training with famed coach Bela Karolyi, who also coached many other world class gymnasts such as Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton, to name just two.

After 7 months of training with Bela, Dominique became the youngest person ever to qualify for the U.S. Jr. National Team. In 1992 she took a silver medal on the balance beam, and fifth place all around, at the Jr. National Championships. Later that same year, at the Pan America Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she captured five gold medals, including the all-around competition, vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise, once again being the youngest to ever do so.

 At the 1994 Jr. Nationals she took the all-around title and gold medal in the floor exercise and vault. She continued to shine in each of her competitions from that point on until she went to the Olympics for the first time in 1996.

At the age of 14 she won her Olympic gold as part of the U.S. gymnastics team, which became known as the magnificent seven, in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. With the new age limit of 16 having been set by the Olympics committee, no one else will ever hold that title. Prior to her win with the team in Atlanta, she suffered a fractured tibia which not only limited her training, but also prevented her from achieving individual gold on her own.

After the Olympics of 1996 her coach of many years, Bela Karolyi, retired and was replaced with Luminita Miscenco, also from Romania. Dominique Credits her new coach for helping her to adjust to her growth spurt of 7 inches and a weight gain of 18 pounds that went with it. She felt that at the age of 17 she was still young enough to continue to compete on the international stage. In 1998 at the Goodwill Games in New York City, she took the all-around title, and gold medal, which reestablished her standing amongst the best gymnasts in the world.

It was at this point that she filed a law suit against her parents, claiming that they had mismanaged her finances, which they denied. It wound up being a headline maker that smeared her parent’s names all around the world. Two weeks after the law suit was filed, it was withdrawn with the upshot being that she was declared a legal adult, and therefore in full charge of her own finances.

Many people thought that would lead to a serious split in the family relationships. In the aftermath of the withdrawn law suit, the Houston, Texas police reported to Dominique that her father had tried to hire someone to kill not only her, but her coach and then boyfriend Brian Huggins. Other sources tried to tell her this was not true, but a judge issued a one year restraining order against Dimitry Moceanu. She then fled to the Cayman Islands, with her mother and boyfriend.

She did not talk to her father for 6 months after that, but her mother passed messages between them during that period. The media were swarming all around her, and helicopters flew over her house constantly so they could not leave. Her biggest complaint was that for all the coverage they gave, none of the various media ever finished telling the whole story. This also was a period of time when she could not train or compete. Many felt she had reached the end of her career and serious doubts were voiced about her ability to comeback successfully. In the spring of 1999 she moved back home, and says the family has been growing closer all the time, though father and daughter are so much alike that they keep butting heads.

In January of 2000 she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and began training under Mary Lee Tracy. She advanced well through the various competitions and was on track to join the trials for the 2000 when a knee injury forced her to withdraw. Even though she was not able to compete, she continues to train and also coaches others.

These days she is adding to her resume by staring in films. Her first endeavor strikes one as almost a remake of her own life story, but not quite. Titled "As Fast As She Can" it went straight to DVD's for public release and sale.

In 2006 she attended training camp and competed at the 2006 U.S. Classic in order to qualify for the Olympics. The Committee ultimately decided to block her participation. Dominique and her then boyfriend, now husband, appealed the ruling, but did not win an overturning of the decision.

Also in 2206, the movie she starred in, "In The Dog House" was released in Hungary. The basic story line is along the line of two movie favorites with a misbehaving shaggy dog, and Doctor Doolittle (the original) directs Mr. Rogers. It is a bit of a manic comedy, but a family style movie none the less.

In November 2006 she married her long time boyfriend Michael Canales, in Houston, Texas. They now have two children, a daughter, Carmen Noel Canales, born 25 December 2007 and a son, Vincent Michael Canales, born March 13, 2009.

On March 23, 2010 Dominique was inducted into the gymnastics hall of fame, along with Wendy Bruce-Martin and Jennifer Parilla. The actual ceremony took place on August 13, 2010.

She is currently working on  writing a gymnastics children's book series for middle-schooler's  that is scheduled for release by Disney*Hyperion in 2012. She graduated from John Carroll University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in business management. In October of 2010 she participated in a celebrity dance competition to help raise funds for the Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland. She continues to help run gymnastics camps and training programs for young people, as well as doing public speaking engagements to encourage young people to take an interest in gymnastics.