Interview With Olympic Gymnast Dominique Moceanu

More From Dominique Moceanu

Would you allow your children to compete in a sport at an elite level?

Yes, if they have the right coaches, which my husband, Mike, and I have talked about. I want to make sure the coach places our children's emotional and physical well-being above everything else and not have a win-at-all-cost mentality. My husband and I believe that if you treat a child well and nurture his talent and physical ability, in a healthy environment, the child will succeed no matter what. The most important thing is to see who is coaching and influencing the children. Don't hand over 100 percent authority, and check up with the coaches. See what their philosophies and discipline terms are. You have to ask your children, "How are you being treated in the gym?" and define abuse and common scenarios so they understand. These are important things that we don't talk to our children about enough. Most kids get scared and embarrassed if something happens. They don't want to be ostracized by their teammates or get a coach in trouble. They're so young and vulnerable, and they don't want to rock the boat. But the most important thing is not to put kids at any risk for harm.

I like that you emphasize that it's not the sport that's a problem. I think gymnastics, especially, gets a bad rap for having a lot of pressure.

We place pressure on ourselves as elite-level athletes. You want to be the best. Gymnastics is the greatest sport in the world and one of the hardest, but we have to watch out for domineering male figures who try to belittle and scream at young girls. It's inappropriate! I've seen it so many times and people just accept the behavior. That's when it's time to say, "Okay, this has gone on long enough."

In your book, you write: "In hindsight, I realize that alongside my hard work, it was my parents' unwavering confidence in me, year after year, that propelled my success and allowed me to reach my goals. It's a trait that I see in myself as a parent today." How do you make sure to support your children in a positive way? It wasn't always positive when your parents were raising you.

I'm going to be much more in tune with their emotions and feelings and make sure that I explain to them, "Look, this is how it should be in the gym. If anything ever goes the opposite direction, if you feel in any way that you're being threatened or intimidated, tell me and I will nip it in the bud." My husband was a competitive collegiate athlete, so we make sure our kids remain healthy and happy. It's important for a parent to be observant of their child's behavior, body language, and mannerisms. As a parent, you need to have open communication with your child.

Your father wasn't always able to protect you, but you were able to forgive him before he passed away. How were you able to do that?

I realized that my father came from a different world and culture, and he came from an abusive father. They were never able to break the cycle. My mother came from an abusive father as well. She was passive and so mellow; she just wanted the best. It was mostly my father who was domineering. At the end of his life, when he started getting ill with cancer, I realized that I wanted to start mending our relationship. When I started dating my husband, my father really liked him. Mike understood my father in ways that maybe other people wouldn't have, and he always gave him the benefit of the doubt. I saw a softer side to my father. Once I left gymnastics, he realized I was becoming a woman and I was defending what I believed in. We started to mend things little by little. I didn't want him to leave this world not knowing that I loved him and forgave him, because we all needed to move forward as a family. He was able to walk me down the aisle at my wedding and I was very thankful. I also wanted him to enjoy being a grandparent, so he got to hold his first grandchild, Carmen.

It's very impressive that you were able to forgive him.

No, it's not — you have to make a conscious decision to improve. If you don't make a conscious decision to make things better, they're not going to get better. But it's not something that happens overnight; you have to work at it with time. I also forgave the Karolyis, but not for their sake. I did it for my sake so I could move forward with my life and talk about that time freely.

Another big part of your book is the relationship with your long-lost sister, Jennifer. What is that relationship like today?

It's still growing and we're always finding out new things about each other. We're making an effort to stay in touch as much as possible. I always wanted sisters growing up, so to have another one is a bonus. We have a really good relationship, all three of us sisters. We have unconditional love for one another and we want to see each other succeed. That's what sisterhood is for; that's what family is for.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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