Gymnast Dominique Moceanu reveals family secrets, hardships in new book

    3:03 PM, Jun 13, 2012   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) -- At just fourteen years old, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. But behind the gold-medal success, she hid dark secrets. Moceanu shares stories of abuse, secret injuries and a shocking family secret in her new book, "Off Balance."

    Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu hasn't lost the focus and smile she's known for as a member of the "magnificent seven" in Atlanta. Behind that smile, she's hidden a lot of pain.

    While she loved the sport, Moceanu says her coaches, Martha and Bela Karolyi, made her life miserable, severely restricting her eating, forcing her to hide any sports-related injuries, and constantly chipping away at her self-esteem. She says, "Name calling like 'piggy' and 'fat.' The Karolyi's hit me on a lot of personal and emotional places. They used my father as a medium of abuse."

    She says the coaches would call her father to complain about her performance in practice, and he'd punish her by hitting her. She says, "For so long, I was silenced by those very people who never wanted me to say anything."

    The Karolyis declined to comment on her accusations but tell CNN, quote: "We have known Dominique since she was a young gymnast, and wish her only the best of success as she goes through life."

    At 17, she went to court to be granted legal independence from her Romanian parents, to reclaim her money, and choose her own coach.

    Moceanu's younger sister Christina says she witnessed the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, but says Dominique reconciled with him before he died from cancer. Dominique says, "I've learned to take those experiences that were difficult in my life, and the adversity I had overcome, to use it for a positive change."

    Moceanu retired from gymnastics in 2006. Soon afterwards, while she was pregnant with her first child, she received a letter from another sister, one she never knew she had, a sister born with no legs and given up for adoption. Dominique says, "I got the biggest bombshell of my life. And it changed everything. My life will forever be divided now into before knowing about Jen and after knowing about Jen."

    Today, Moceanu is happily married and wants to help other young gymnasts fall in love with the sport she loved so much.

    And, she says, her two children may even be gymnasts in the future.

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