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Dominique Moceanu, on her own at last, is training again -- and loving it (03/16/99

Dominique will NOT compete in the competition in China! Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu, whose fight for legal independence from her parents kept her away from the gym for nearly four months, plans to make her comeback at a competition in China on April 5. "It'll be a couple of months before I'm back in the shape I was in when I won the Goodwill Games [last July]," the 17-year-old Moceanu says. "In 14 years of gymnastics I'd never taken even a month off, so it's not going to be easy. But you've got to believe and go forward if you're going to achieve your dreams."

Since December, when a Texas district judge granted a protective order against Dominique's domineering and abusive father, Dumitru, forbidding him to speak to her directly or come within 500 feet of her residence, school or workout facility for one year (SI, Dec. 21, 1998), Dominique has been searching for a place to train. In late January she moved from Houston to Orlando to begin working out with her coach, Luminita Miscenco, at Brown's Gymnastics Central, a facility run by Rita Brown, a former coach who owns five gyms. Brown reportedly paid Moceanu's moving costs, bought about $15,000 worth of new equipment and cosigned four-month leases on apartments for the gymnast and her coach. But Moceanu, who is accustomed to training privately, left with Miscenco after 2 1/2 weeks.

Brown says she found out that Moceanu was moving to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs when Moceanu announced the move during a television interview. Brown says she feels "a little used" by Moceanu and calls her "a lost little girl."

Early signs are that Moceanu is beginning to find herself again in Colorado Springs, where she has been working out since Feb. 16. The price is certainly right. She is not charged for room and board at the Olympic Training Center -- an important consideration, since Dumitru appears to have used Dominique's trust fund to secure financing for a huge gym near Houston. Dominique lives in a two-bedroom dormitory unit with Miscenco. "Things are working out great for me here," she says. By training 6 1/2 hours a day, she has lost most of the 15 pounds she'd added since walking out of her father's gym on Oct. 17, and she's regaining strength and flexibility. She can already do her entire repertoire on the balance beam, her favorite apparatus, but is struggling with the vault and the uneven bars. "The altitude here still affects me a lot," she says, "but once I can do my routines here, I know I'll be able to do them anywhere."

Moceanu says she'll stay in Colorado Springs at least until September, when she'll try to qualify at the U.S. World Team Trials -- her chief goal before the 2000 Olympics. She occasionally talks by phone to her mother, Camelia, and her little sister, Christina, and believes that one day she and her father will reconcile. "I know he's sad and wants to see me," Dominique says. "My mom says he's coming around, he's changing. Time will heal everything. There's still some hurt. Sometimes I'm lonely. But when I was young, I was taught to be tough, and I believe if I can overcome this, I can overcome anything. I want to prove to everyone that I can do it on my own."