Friday, August 11, 2006

Committee's decision hampers '96 gold medalist's comeback attempt

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Dominique Moceanu, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist who hoped to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Magnificent Seven's triumph in Atlanta by competing at the USA Gymnastics national championship next week in St. Paul, Minn., lost her appeal to the federation's grievance panel Thursday and will not be allowed to compete.

Moceanu, 24, who now lives and trains in Cincinnati with her fiancé and coach, former gymnast and medical resident Mike Canales, said she was disappointed by the ruling and does not believe USA Gymnastics has treated her fairly in her comeback effort.

"I think the decision was predetermined, and the issues we brought up still have not been addressed," she said. "They have introduced irrelevant information in an effort to make me look bad. This is all personal, and I have no idea why it's happening."

Moceanu, who has spent the last year recovering from surgery to repair an Achilles' tendon, attended a national team training camp at her own expense earlier this year and competed in two events at the U.S. Classic meet in Kansas City. She finished well back in the pack in vault and floor exercise with a combined score of 27.1 points.

Moceanu petitioned to the women's program selection committee for a spot in nationals, and her petition was denied, setting up her appeal to the grievance committee. She did not say if she would appeal that decision to the federation's executive committee, which would have the final say in any appeals process.

"The panel wants Dom to compete as much as the selection committee does, but we concur with their analysis that there is no reasonable way to justify that she should be allowed to compete in the 2006 Visa Championships," the grievance committee said in a statement.

Added federation president Steve Penny: "I understand why Dominique is disappointed. She has put a lot of effort into making this comeback. We definitely made everything available to her in this process, and I know Martha (national team coordinator Martha Karolyi) gave her some insights at the camp.

"USA Gymnastics has always supported Dominique and will continue to do so in the future."

Moceanu, however, said Karolyi ignored her and her coach at camp and that the selection committee "nullified its own criteria" by refusing to give her a spot .

Penny declined to comment on selection criteria. 

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