Thursday, August 17, 2006

For Immediate Release

ST. PAUL--August 17, 2006--Olympic gold medal winning gymnast Dominique Moceanu will be present at the USA Gymnastics national championships in St. Paul this week, but she won’t be competing, despite an appeal to USAG to permit her to do so.

Moceanu will be on hand with her former Olympic teammates to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Magnificent Seven's triumph in Atlanta. After bouncing back from surgery for Achilles tendonosis, participation at this year’s Team USA Training Camp, and a crowd-pleasing performance at US Classic last month, Moceanu had hoped to be given an opportunity to compete at Nationals this week, but lost her appeal to USA Gymnastic’s grievance panel last Thursday in a 2-1 vote and will not be allowed to participate.

"The bottom line is that I simply wanted to be given a chance to compete,” said Moceanu. “My coach Michael Canales and I had been notified that two specific criteria needed to be achieved to enable me to compete at Nationals – to attend a National Team Training Camp and to compete at the U.S. Classic meet on at least one event. I completed both of these criteria.”

Moceanu contends that despite complying with the requirements provided, she was nonetheless denied the right to compete at Nationals by the panel.

“I was not seeking any special favors,” she added. “I just requested what I believe I rightfully earned — a chance to compete fairly at Nationals. It's disappointing, but I am grateful to all of my fans and friends who have supported me with words of encouragement. I’m feeling strong and doing really well. I’ll be back."

Future public appearances for Moceanu include her participation in the Hilton Gymnastics/Ice Skating Show taping on October 28th in Portland for later national broadcast by NBC.

Moceanu said that despite her being blocked from competition at Nationals, she is looking forward to reuniting with her “Mag 7” teammates from the ’96 Games when they are celebrated at the event this weekend.

An audio recording of Moceanu’s and Canales’ actual verbal presentations before the USAG Grievance Committee is available as an MP3 file on Moceanu’s website,


To receive more information or arrange an interview with Dominque Moceanu, please contact Paul Williams, MediaLine Communications, at 310/937-2009, or via 

Monday, August 14, 2006

They thrilled a nation with moves in Atlanta. Now some U.S. gymnasts work behind the scenes.

Spirit of '96 lives on

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Had things gone according to plan, Dominique Moceanu would be wearing her warmup suit and competition leotard when she joined six teammates from the 1996 U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team — the Magnificent Seven — next Saturday in St. Paul, Minn.

However, with last week's decision denying Moceanu the chance to compete at the USA Gymnastics national championships that begin Wednesday, that scenario isn't happening.

Moceanu, 24, still plans to be in St. Paul on Saturday with the darlings of Atlanta as they celebrate the 10th anniversary of their dramatic gold medal victory and their first appearance together since at least 1997.

Reunion reflections
It shapes up as a happy moment for seven women — Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug — who have thrived mostly out of the public spotlight for 10 years.

"The general passage of time is a little scary. I think we all feel that," Miller, 29, said last week. "It's hard to believe it was 10 years ago. In some ways it seems like yesterday, but in others, it seems like it was a completely different time."

Three are in college: Miller in her third year of law school at Boston College, Chow at Stanford University's medical school and Moceanu at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

Borden and Phelps are coaching. Strug works for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and Dawes is a motivational speaker and is completing a year as president of the Women's Sports Foundation.

They came along at a time when USA Gymnastics was beginning to put aside the dog-eat-dog attitude that Strug said was an uneasy element of the 1992 team, but the athletes had yet to adopt the more team-oriented program that produced a world championship in 2003 and an Olympic silver medal in 2004.

"In Barcelona, they purposefully used us against each other, thinking that would push the team to new heights," Strug said. "They realized that didn't work, so they tried to bring us together as a team before the (1996) Olympics. Now it's a very different system. They really do try to make it more cohesive."

Bells for Moceanu
Moceanu faced the most turbulent post-Olympic moments when she and her parents battled in court in the late 1990s over financial issues. But the family is on good terms today, and she plans to be married in Houston in November to her fiancé and coach, Mike Canales, a former gymnast.

After failing to make the 2000 Olympic team, Moceanu left the sport before launching a comeback attempt that was interrupted last year by an ankle injury that required surgery. After recovering, she attended a team training camp and competed at the U.S. Classic meet in Kansas City but was unable to persuade USA Gymnastics officials to grant her a spot at nationals this week.

"The thing that has been so great recently is that I haven't had to sacrifice anything to remain in gymnastics," she said last week. "A lot of great things have been happening.

"Never did I think that 10 years after the Olympics I would want to compete. But at 24, I have a different perspective on gymnastics. There's so much to life, and gymnastics is just a beautiful part of it."

While disappointed by what she considers lack of support by federation officials for her comeback and an unfair decision that will prevent her from competing this week, Moceanu said she believes she has been a role model for the current generation of gymnasts.

"(Alicia Sacramone), one of the current world champions, said how glad she was that I was back competing," she said. "I was able to share stories with them, and I looked forward to being with them and helping through competitions when they were having a hard time. I wanted to send the message that this is women's gymnastics and that it's not just for little girls."

Even though she won't compete this week, she said Saturday's recognition of the Magnificent Seven "will still be a celebration, a wonderful occasion. I won't let them (federation officials) determine how I feel."

Miller has had turbulent times as well. After qualifying for the 2000 Olympic trials but failing to make the team, Miller lived briefly in Houston with her husband, eye surgeon Christopher B. Phillips, before the couple moved to Boston.

Miller filed for divorce in 2004, and the two battled in court over financial issues for more than two years before a settlement. Their divorce will be final in September.

Camera ready
While Miller deals with the end of that relationship, she continues with an unlikely career that arose, in part, out of the disappointment of failing to make the 2000 team. She worked for NBC at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and now does a gymnastics show for the Comcast cable group.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride for me, personally and professionally, but it's been really good," she said. "I've really kind of grown up and gained confidence in myself outside the sport. I was always this shy little girl, and I never thought I would be involved with television, but now it's something I enjoy."

While Miller wraps up her final year of law school, she also will wrap up her performing career as a gymnast. She will perform on floor and balance beam for a program Oct. 29 in Portland, Ore., that will be filmed for television.

Two other members of the Mag 7 — Borden, who owns a gym in Chalder, Ariz., with her husband, Brad Cochran, and Phelps, who is coaching in Colorado Springs, Colo., after marrying 2004 Olympic silver medalist Brett McClure — remain active in the sport.

Strug, meanwhile, has taken another path. She has run in two Boston Marathons and works out five days a week but said she hasn't done a flip in eight years.

After considering herself as one of the shyest members of the 1996 team, she speaks for a living as part of the public affairs and marketing arm of the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Serving Uncle Sam
Strug said she still gets recognized as the gymnast who had to be carried to the medals podium after suffering an ankle injury on the vault in the final moments of the Olympic team competition.

These days, she's learning about funding and bureaucracy.

"I have a passion for working with young people, and this job is a great chance for me to find out about how things transpire and the importance of funding and presentations for federal grants," she said.

As a political appointee, her job will expire with the end of the Bush administration, but she hopes to work with child development issues after 2008. 

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. 

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A hearing was held Wednesday for Dominique Moceanu, who filed a grievance after her petition to compete at the upcoming U.S. Championships was rejected after the recent U.S. Classic in Kansas City.

After the U.S. Classic, a USA Gymnastics spokesperson said Moceanu's petition to the U.S. Championships was denied because she did not meet the required two-event score of 28.00 in Kansas City.

However, during Wednesday's hearing held via conference call, USA Gymnastics' Kathy Kelly said Moceanu's petition was not rejected for that reason.

Moceanu maintains that she was told in writing that the requirements to petition to the U.S. Championships were to attend the national team training camp in July and to compete on at least one event at the U.S. Classic, and was not informed that other criteria would be used.

The Grievance Committee chairman for USA Gymnastics is Ken Allen. Allen selected a three-person hearing panel, composed of chair Marje Kiley, David Kennedy and former rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard.

USA Gymnastics is expected to announce its decision Thursday morning.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A member of the 1996 Magnificent Seven, she is making a comeback to competitive gymnastics

The Kansas City Star

Gymnast Alicia Sacramone was signing autographs after her training session Friday for the U.S. Classic. One saucer-eyed little girl got her signature, then just kept staring and repeating “thank you.”

Sacramone, 18, couldn’t help but crack up after her third, “You’re welcome.” The 2005 world champion in floor exercise, Sacramone was asked if she would have been so starstruck by anyone when she was a child. She grinned and pointed over her shoulder at someone also surrounded by small admirers.

“That woman right there,” Sacramone said of Dominique Moceanu. “I remember watching her and the U.S. Olympic team (in 1996) and thinking, ‘Oh, that looks like so much fun! That’s what I want to do.’ And now, I’m competing alongside her.”

Yes, Moceanu, the tiniest member of the “Magnificent Seven,” is still a gymnast, now at age 24. On video, though, she’ll always be the dark-eyed, 14-year-old sprite who helped the Americans win the team gold at the Atlanta Games.

Next month, those seven gymnasts — Moceanu, Shannon Miller, Kerri Strug, Dominique Dawes, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden and Jaycie Phelps — will have a reunion at the Visa Championships in St. Paul, Minn.

“I can understand the magnitude, that perhaps I didn’t at 14, of what our success really did for the sport of gymnastics,” Moceanu said. “It afforded me so many opportunities to travel around the world and meet some amazing people.

“It was the biggest competition of your life, and there was a lot of pressure to win gold because it was in our country. So that part was very serious; it had to be. The fun came afterward, when we got to tour around the United States. We went to photo shoots, to Oprah Winfrey, to Kathy and Regis, got thousands of fan letters. We became like sisters, because we did everything together.”

And when they gather again in August …

“It will be very strange for me,” Moceanu said, laughing, “because I’ll be competing, and the rest of them will be in the VIP section. So that is going to be a little bizarre. But a very amazing experience. I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d still be doing this.”

Moceanu took part in just two events in the U.S. Classic on Saturday, placing 14th in the vault (14.250) and tying for 15th in the floor exercise (12.850). But just competing at all is a big deal, considering she originally retired from gymnastics in 2001. The road back started in 2004, when she was a media correspondent at the Athens Games and then began working with longtime friend Michael Canales, himself a former gymnast, to get in shape for a post-Olympic tour.

“Little by little, she started saying, ‘I think I can be competitive within the United States,’ ” said Canales, who is now Moceanu’s coach and fiance. “I said, ‘If you can do that, you can be competitive with the rest of the world.’ We started making goals in November 2004, just taking it a small step at a time. By June (2005), we both were confident she could be competitive.

“Unfortunately, we had a bump in the road with a chronic problem with her Achilles’ tendon that had to be fixed. I was involved with the surgery.”

Yes, Canales, 29, is also a physician, the chief resident at St. Vincent Charity Hospital in Cleveland.

The couple is very busy outside of gymnastics. Moceanu is attending John Carroll University in Cleveland, studying for a business degree. She and Canales will marry on Nov. 4, and Strug will be one of the bridesmaids. The wedding will be in Houston, where Moceanu’s parents live.

Moceanu went through some very difficult times with her father, Dumitru, in 1998-99 as they had a dispute over the use of her earnings to build a gymnastics training center. But she said that has all been resolved.

“I’m very much over everything that happened, and my relationship with my parents is wonderful,” she said. “My dad and I had a disagreement over finances. … Now, we’re a stronger unit because of that. My father respects me very much, and we came full circle.”

So what’s driving Moceanu to still compete now, having already accomplished so much and with such a full life?

“I want to be a part of the movement that shows women’s gymnastics is for women as well, not just girls,” she said. “I’m 24, I’m still very young. There’s no reason why gymnasts can’t have more longevity if we keep our bodies healthy.” 

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