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American gymnast Dominique Moceanu was a member of the "Magnificent Seven," the U.S. women's gymnastics team that won Olympic gold in 1996.
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Born on September 30, 1981, in Hollywood, California, to Romanian immigrants, Dominique Moceanu began training with renowned gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi at age 10. She was the youngest member of the "Magnificent Seven," the U.S. women's gymnastics team that won the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, and later released an autobiography detailing the abuse she suffered while training for the team.
Dominique Helena Moceanu was born on September 30, 1981, in Hollywood, California. The oldest child of Dumitru and Camelia, Romanian immigrants with backgrounds in gymnastics, Dominique Moceanu took her first classes in the sport at age 3. When she was 10, her parents drove her from Florida to Texas so that she could try out for Béla Károlyi, the renowned Romanian coach who had trained Olympic champions Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton. Károlyi accepted Moceanu into his program, and she became the youngest member of the U.S. junior national team.
Dominique Moceanu went on to become one of Károlyi's most promising students. She won the U.S. junior national all-around title in 1994 and the senior title the following year, and earned individual silver on the balance beam at the 1995 World Championships. Her goal of competing in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was nearly derailed when she missed the Olympic trials with a stress fracture in her leg, but she made the U.S. women's gymnastics team on the strength of her third-place finish at the U.S. Nationals earlier that year.
Despite being the youngest member of the squad, which was nicknamed "The Magnificent Seven," Moceanu drew comparisons to Comaneci and, as such, shouldered heavy expectations. She performed well in her first three routines—uneven bars, balance beam and a floor exercise—but surprisingly fell twice while attempting to stick her vault landings. She also hit her head during another routine on the beam and failed to win any individual medals, but her overall scores were good enough to help the U.S. women's team claim its first-ever gold medal in the competition.
Moceanu delivered a stronger performance two years later at the Goodwill Games in New York City, becoming the first non-Russian woman to win an all-around gold medal in gymnastics. She suffered a knee injury during the 2000 Olympic trials, preventing her from participating at that year's Summer Games, then elected to forego further international competition. Moceanu attempted a return to the sport a few years later, but suffered more injuries in 2005 and didn't qualify for the 2006 U.S. National Championships.
In October 1998, the 17-year-old Moceanu filed suit against her parents for the right to be classified an adult and reclaim approximately $1 million in lost earnings. A financial settlement was reached, and Moceanu later reconciled with her parents, before Dumitru died of cancer.
In 2007, Moceanu discovered she had a younger sister, Jen Bricker, who had been given up for adoption by their parents.
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