Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Full Vault 13-Year-Old Competitor Could Be Gymnastic Money in Bank for U.S

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Full Vault 13-Year-Old Competitor Could Be Gymnastic Money in Bank for U.S

Article excerpt

If Dominique Moceanu were to win the 1996 Olympic all-around title, it would only be fitting - the perfect conclusion to a best seller.

The rest of the ingredients are already there - the Romanian immigrant parents, themselves former gymnasts; their determination that their daughter should follow in their footsteps; the family's move to Houston when Dominique was 9, just so she could train under the legendary coach Bela Karolyi; and, of course, Dominique herself, whose personality and charm make one believe that she was born to be a star.

This year, Moceanu, the 1994 U.S. junior national champion, stepped up to the big leagues. Now a senior, the 13-year-old has competed successfully against top gymnasts such as Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes.

After Wednesday's compulsory competition at the U.S. National Championships at the Superdome, Moceanu was in second place, only fifteen-hundredths of a point behind Miller going into Thursday's second round. Defending champion Dawes was in sixth place.

Moceanu's success comes as no surprise to her father, Dumitru, 40, and mother, Camelia, 34, who were gymnasts in their native Romania. Even before the couple emigrated to the United States in 1980 and settled in California, the father had vowed that his first child would be a gymnast.

"If not a gymnast, then something else - but an athlete," he said. "I wanted her to have the discipline."

After Dominique was born in 1981 - in Hollywood - Moceanu kept his word. When his daughter was 3, he would test her strength by seeing how long she could hang from a clothesline.

"The line broke before she let go," he said.

Moceanu, convinced that he had something, called Karolyi in Houston and asked if he would take Dominique as a student. Karolyi refused, saying she was too young, and Dominique's parents enrolled her in a gym elsewhere.

Moceanu called Karolyi again in 1990, and soon after moved his family to Houston. …

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