Gold medal gymnast Dominique Moceanu was Jennifer's idol... and something more.
Posted in , Aug 3, 2012
Jennifer Bricker's life had a difficult start. Born without legs, her parents, Romanian immigrants, gave her up for adoption because they couldn't afford her medical care.
But Jennifer's adoptive family made sure her disability was never a factor in her life. "Can't is a four-letter word we don't use in this house," her mother always told her.
At six years old, Jennifer became obsessed with gymnastics, and her adoptive family encouraged her at every turn. Her idols became the "Magnificent 7," the 1996 U.S. Olympic gymnastics squad.
Watching the Olympics on TV, Jennifer immediately was drawn to one of the American gymnasts, Dominique Moceanu. The commentators mentioned she had a Romanian background. "Like me," Jennifer said.
Moceanu. Jennifer's mother knew that last name. It was the last name of Jennifer's birth parents. What a strange coincidence, that her daughter should latch on to her, above all the other gymnasts.
Then the camera panned over to show Dominique's parents react to their daughter's performance. When the commentator said their names, Jennifer's mother gasped. They were Jennifer's birth parents.
Dominique won a gold medal as part of the team competition, and Jennifer was thrilled. But her parents decided to wait until she was older to tell her about her famous sister.
Jennifer made the Junior Olympic team as a power tumbler and went on to win state titles in high school competitions. Dominique remained her inspiration. On Jennifer's 16th birthday, she finally asked her parents about her birth family. That's when they told her: Her idol was also her biological sister.
Jennifer first tried to get in touch with her biological parents. But her biological father ignored her calls. It took nearly four years for Jennifer to reach out to Dominique in a letter. "I feel that I have one chance to show you and prove to you that I’m not some crazy person..." she wrote.
Dominique's parents had never told her or her sister Christina about the child they gave up for adoption. But Dominique didn't doubt Jennifer's story. Now the sisters are busy making up for lost time. "It’s so much fun every time the three of us get together,” Jennifer told ABC News.
Jennifer is now a professional acrobat and aerialist; she’s even performed on tour with Britney Spears. Dominique, meanwhile, recently made headlines with her new book, Off Balance, in which she tells the story of meeting Jennifer, as well as the fraught relationship she's had with her parents and the sport of gymnastics.
You could say gymnastic ability runs in the family—but it's incredible how the sport helped bring these sisters together in such a neat way. A reminder that all our tumbles and twists are part of life's floor routine... expertly planned to get us that gold medal in the end.