Has Dominique Moceanu Flipped?

The Olympic gymnast is at war with her parents. She says they’re abusive. They say she’s spoiled. And the gold medal for histrionics goes to . . .

IN EARLY 1992, WHEN SPORTSWRITERS DROPPED BY BELA Karolyi’s north Houston gym, the revered coach would point out a ten-year-old girl named Dominique Moceanu, an engaging sprite who exploded like a firecracker on the balance beam and over the uneven bars. Karolyi didn’t hesitate to compare her with his most famous pupil, Nadia Comaneci, the star of the 1976 Olympics. “She has the spark,” he’d say, and it wasn’t long before she was living up to her billing. At the 1996 Olympics Dominique charmed the world; even when she fell and landed on her head, her dimpled smile was so infectious that audiences cheered wildly for her. She was then fourteen, just four feet six inches tall and 72 pounds, the mascot of the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team. She received thousands of letters from adoring girls and boys. She starred in a Kodak commercial. She wrote an autobiography, Dominique Moceanu: An American Champion, in which she described the sacrifices made by her Romanian-born parents. “My parents were the best,” she wrote. “They supported me strongly and encouraged me in every way they could.”

Dumitru and Camelia Moceanu defected from Romania to the U.S. nearly twenty years ago with no money and no grasp of the English language. After recognizing Dominique’s talent, they worked at a Chicago restaurant seven days a week until four in the morning to pay for her training. When they moved to Houston so that Dominique could

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