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Thread: Former Olympic gymnst Dominique Moceanu speaks out

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    Custom Title Johar's Avatar
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    Former Olympic gymnst Dominique Moceanu speaks out

    Last edited by Johar; 06-20-2012 at 01:46 PM.

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    Yes, I've seen her on some TV segments. What a story! The most salient point I get out of it is how unutterably lucky her sister was to have been adopted by a loving family. Romania has had (I don't know about the present moment) one of the largest populations of unclaimed kids in orphanages, and even a healthy kid hasn't always had much chance of being adopted. Yet this family chose a little girl with quite a physical challenge and gave her the kind of life where she was able to overcome her disability in magnificent fashion. Good for Dominique for breaking out and starting a seemingly stable family of her own, but special praises to her sister's adoptive parents.

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    Custom Title Johar's Avatar
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    Yea, her sister was born without legs or only partial legs. I remember how beautiful she was as a child and she is just as beautiful now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johar View Post
    Yea, her sister was born without legs or only partial legs. I remember how beautiful she was as a child and she is just as beautiful now.
    Which girl are you talking about?

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    Custom Title Johar's Avatar
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    Dom found out she had a sister whom her parents gave away because she was born missing legs,

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johar View Post
    Dom found out she had a sister whom her parents gave away because she was born missing legs,
    Now that I've read a little more, I'm not sure whether the sister was born in Romania or here. Either way, she was blessed to have a wonderful adoptive family. There's a video of the interview they did on I think the Today show, and all three girls have delightful personalities. Dominique is very articulate and sounds quite sensible and steady, which is great to hear considering her seemingly tumultuous upbringing and childhood.

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    Dominique can definitely write, assuming someone wasn't editing her work. I too am adopted and have my own bad experiences to talk about as they pertain to adoption, though I'm still appreciative for my parents adopting me in the first place. I'm sure that finding out that her sister was disabled helped to put her own issues in life into perspective.

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    Coach Bela Karolyi---He scares me!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johar View Post
    Coach Bela Karolyi---He scares me!
    To me he seems no better than a paid bully. There's something revolting about a big guy like that having the last word over every aspect of the lives of little girls--very little girls--who are literally risking their lives on his say-so. I was as excited as anyone else about the Romanian teams of 1976 and 1984, but when we started hearing what the cost was to the girls, I soured on that kind of gymnastics pretty quickly. One thing that revived my interest in gymnastics was Svetlana Khorkina, who lasted into adulthood as an elite gymnast, and who seemed able to hold her own with the coach.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    My neice takes gymnastics and loves it, the idea terrifies me as she already has issues with how she feels people see her (my cousin is a worthless excuse of a dad IMO) and all we hear about are the horror stories...

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    I got the book, just started reading it. So far, a common opinion seems to be that there's a bit too much about the sister, not enough about the gymnastics.

    Good to see someone as successful as Dominique speaking out though. When a less successful gymnast does it, it's usually dismissed as "sour grapes." Hopefully it'll be a bit harder to dismiss it when a member of the Olympic gold-medal winning team says something. Of course, I've read some comments that still dismiss this as "sour grapes" because Dominique didn't achieve as much individual international success as she'd expected, or because her 2006 comeback didn't work out. Who is entitled to say something, I wonder?

    Anyone remember that fluff piece from the 1996 Olympics that called her life a "fairy tale" and painted her as a naive little girl who'd known nothing but success, love and excitement and who "thinks the world is made out of sugar and she's climbing the sugar mountain," in Karolyi's own words? I thought the way it infantilized her was ridiculous at the time, and that was before I even knew the true story.

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    I agree that it's unusual for a gymnastics star to come forward and give such an arduous account of the pitfalls of the sport. Moceanu's words would intensify any parent's (or aunt's!) worry about the risks of gymnastics, given the possibilities. I know from ballet people that you can find this sort of situation there, too, and of course figure skating also lends itself to similar abuse.

    if I were a worried parent (or aunt!), my question would be, does every gymnast undergo this kind of treatment. I gather that Shannon Miller had a thoroughly satisfying gymnastics career, as did Shaun Johnson. Mary Lou Retton seems to have nothing but happy memories of her time in gymnastics, and she was actually a Karoly student, wasn't she. So what is it that makes possible something like Moceanu's agonizing career? I think the one obvious answer is the parents. Moceanu's father seems to have been the same kind of unpredictable martinet as Karolyi, and so Dominique had no advocate to put restraints on her training regimen. A good parent would have asked the coach to rein it in, or would have changed coaches. These guys played blind, deaf, and dumb.

    For myself, I don't like the idea of gymnastics for a girl because it too easily feeds into the idea that a small, childish shape is the only shape to be. It can also be incredibly dangerous. (Full disclosure: I feel the same way about football in terms of the danger.) On the other hand, you get someone like Shaun Johnson, who did handstands on the furniture and walked tightrope on the neighbor's fence as soon as she could climb. Obviously born for the sport.

    Being a parent is so complicated!
    Last edited by Olympia; 06-23-2012 at 06:35 AM.

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    Just finished the book yesterday. I thought she came across as very fair and level-headed and had a lot of valid criticisms of the powers that be, and she also seems to be a genuinely sensitive and other-focused person. Those accusations that she's just bitter and trying to get attention really seem silly now. One part of her life she skipped over completely was her attempt to qualify for the 2000 Olympics. I remember that year she competed at nationals, didn't really have the difficulty in her routines to be a top contender, and couldn't compete at trials because of injury. That came the year after all the turmoil with her family and that coach they brought over from Romania. She didn't train much in the midst of all of that, and I guess she didn't have enough time to get ready.

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I agree that it's unusual for a gymnastics star to come forward and give such an arduous account of the pitfalls of the sport. Moceanu's words would intensify any parent's (or aunt's!) worry about the risks of gymnastics, given the possibilities. I know from ballet people that you can find this sort of situation there, too, and of course figure skating also lends itself to similar abuse.

    if I were a worried parent (or aunt!), my question would be, does every gymnast undergo this kind of treatment. I gather that Shannon Miller had a thoroughly satisfying gymnastics career, as did Shaun Johnson. Mary Lou Retton seems to have nothing but happy memories of her time in gymnastics, and she was actually a Karoly student, wasn't she. So what is it that makes possible something like Moceanu's agonizing career? I think the one obvious answer is the parents. Moceanu's father seems to have been the same kind of unpredictable martinet as Karolyi, and so Dominique had no advocate to put restraints on her training regimen. A good parent would have asked the coach to rein it in, or would have changed coaches. These guys played blind, deaf, and dumb.
    When Domi first started speaking out about her experiences a few years ago, I remember she stressed that her criticisms were directed at elite gymnastics and the damaging behaviour of coaches, etc. there. She had nothing but praise for the sport itself, and in the book she talks about how she really loved the sport and gained a lot of confidence from it before she became involved with the Karolyis. At the end of her book, she mentions her daughter is getting into gymnastics, and says, "I love this sport with all my heart. It was never the sport that harmed me, it was the self-serving adults surrounding the sport at the elite level who harmed me." The attitude of the coaches and parents can certainly play a big influence. There are probably self-serving adults at the elite level of most high-profile sports, but the top athletes in women's gymnastics tend to be quite young, and that increases the potential for harm.

    I've read some pretty unflattering things about Shannon Miller's coach as well. Her mom wrote a book (Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero) in which she describes some pretty controlling and childish behaviour from him. Dominique's book mentioned that Shannon was often in tears during her workouts, although Dominique envied this in a way because the Karolyis hated any displays of emotion from their gymnasts and she quickly learned she had to keep her face blank no matter what she was feeling.

    I thought it was interesting what Dominique said about Kerri Strug also (and it fits with what you said above, Olympia) - the Karolyis were noticeably less harsh on Strug because her father had told him that if they mistreated her, they would take her elsewhere. Kerri was already a top gymnast when they worked that out though, so in most cases with a less successful gymnast I imagine that wouldn't work. The coach would just say, "Fine. Take her elsewhere." And if the coach is well-known for producing successful elite gymnasts, the parents are often reluctant to do that.

    I think it's also no surprise a lot of former gymnasts are reluctant to speak out against the Karolyis, because former gymnasts often end up involved in the sport in some way, and Martha Karolyi holds so much power in gymnastics in the US.

    Shawn Johnson was an interesting case...I remember reading she put in quite a bit less training time than the typical elite gymnast and still achieved some great international success. According to Moceanu's book, Amy Chow also put in less training time than the other Magnificent 7 gymnasts, and she ended up making two Olympic teams and winning an individual silver on bars. This sort of thing is often explained away as people say things like, "Well, she was just exceptionally talented. Not all gymnasts can do that." Well, how do we know how often that can work if it's so rarely attempted? Maybe it's much more do-able than has been thought. Maybe there would be more talented athletes competing at the elite level and lasting longer there if they weren't always being told that you have to train 40+ hours a week and push through injury after injury. Maybe more isn't always better.

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    Thanks for the analysis. You're obviously a well-informed gymnastics fan. I'm just a casual viewer, so I appreciate the benefit of your insights. I'm surprised to hear about Shannon Miller. I don't know why I expected her to be treated differently, or at least have family backing her up as Kerri Strug seems to have. Part of it is that by the time of Atlanta, she had more than proved herself in Barcelona, and I hoped that would give her a cushion. I love that Amy Chow and Shaun Johnson seem to have escaped the worst of it. You might have a point there: that killing oneself in grinding practice might actually be counterproductive.

    Thanks for pointing out the difference between gymnastics and elite gymnastics. That makes me feel a lot better about its being a sport for kids.

    I wonder what the story is with Nastia Liukin. After all, her coach was actually her father, right?

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    It sounds an awful lot like Jenny Kirk's take on skating, doesn't it?

    elite anything is dangerous without the buffers Kirk so wishes she had in her life... (which is why I worry about my neice, IF she were to achieve that - and that's her dream this week - her mom wouldn't be that buffer...)

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