5Qs1

1996 Olympic Gold medallist with Team USA, 1995 World Balance Beam Silver medallist and 1995 US National Champion Dominique Moceanu.

Dominique Moceanu

1.) As a gymnast who was 14 during the Olympics, do you support the age limit? Do you personally think that the Chinese gymnasts were underage in 2008?

Foremost, the emotional and physical well-being of the athlete MUST BE THE PRIORITY.

Age restrictions don’t guarantee this. While I appreciate the rationale, I disagree with age minimums.

We’ve already learned they’re far too difficult to enforce.

It’s human nature to desire “new” things, and in sport oftentimes “new” equates to young. Whether it’s Tiger Woods swinging a club on the Mike Douglas Show at age 3, LeBron James’ NBA debut right out of high school, or a 14 year-old Nadia giving our sport it’s first “perfect 10”, the young phenomenon has not gone away, and it’s here to stay.

On the flip side, what would happen if the FIG tried to enforce a maximum age limit on gymnasts? We all would’ve lost something if we’d missed out on Khorkina’s final performances, Chusovitina’s forever young career, Mohini and Annia’s 2004 Olympic success, Jordan Jovtchev’s mind-blowing routines, and the countless other veterans who seemed to get sweeter with time.

As far as the Chinese case…who knows? Were they underage? Possibly. Will it ever be proven? Probably not. One item I’m certain about was that it was unfair for the mainstream media to harp on their physical appearances.

Look at me in Atlanta. Most people thought I was ten!

Take a peek at University of Denver standout, Jessica Lopez of Venezuela . When she competed at the American Cup in 2008, I recall people asking me if she’d just become a senior elite when I knew she was 22 years of age.

I’m all for breaking age barriers in our sport! I remember the days of training alongside Svetlana Boguinskaia. I was 13, and she was 21. Our sport needs to open it’s doors to allow a 14 year-old to compete against a 34 year old to find out who’s truly the best in world, not who’s the most age eligible!

2.) What is your opinion on the current code of points? Do you support the new 5-3-3 format, the elimination of the perfect 10 and more emphasis on difficulty?

I’ve tried to remain open minded about the current code of points, but as a gymnastics fan, I don’t like it. While I don’t have all of the answers, I’m convinced the code of points is not the real problem… it’s the politics in judging. The mindset behind the new code (which really started in 2004) aimed at making scoring more objective. It did just the opposite. In fact, coaches, athletes, and gymnasts alike are so confused that it’s made cheating easier. I like the difficulty. Who doesn’t? But I don’t like it at the expense of execution.

Secondly, the perfect 10 was our beloved sport’s trademark. Without it we’ve lost a piece of our identity…a piece of our tradition. I can’t say for certain that we’ve lost fans, because gymnastics will always be a big hit during the Olympic Games. All I know is that it’s taken the fans out of the competitions. The casual fan, and even the diehard fan will continue to enjoy the athleticism and artistry, but they’ve lost interest in the results and scores.

When it comes to 5-3-3. Not a fan. The FIG wanted to allow a greater variety of countries to make their way to the medal podium… in turn increasing the global popularity of gymnastics. I get that, BUT they’ve taken team depth (perhaps the most important ingredient to team sports) out of the equation. I think Dwight Normile said it best when he posed the question, “where will the team trimming stop?” Will we eventually have a team made up of four gymnasts with each athlete performing one routine on a different apparatus? Will the Olympic Team Gold be awarded to the highest total of the four routines? I hope not.

At the 2001 Ghent World Championships, Korea’s Kim Dong-Hwa ruptured his bicep tendon on rings during the team competition which took Korea out of the meet in the first rotation of six with no chance of battling for a medal. Ekaterina Kramarenko balked on her vault in 2007 erasing any chance of a team medal for Russia.

That’s NOT how medals should be decided. I subscribe to the belief that we should allow the team competition to award the best team in the world, not necessarily the one with the least bad luck.

I’m all for seeing new teams atop the podium, but I think the steady popularity of seeing more specialists in event finals has served the purpose “spreading the wealth”.

3.) What do you think about the camps at the Karolyi Ranch which lead up to major international competitions? Do you think they’ve lead to the number of injuries on the U.S. team?

I’ve got strong feelings about the National Team Training Camps.

While the centralized system has its benefits (team camaraderie and sharing ideas) and has proved to be successful for the former-Soviets, Romanians, and Chinese . In reality, the U.S. camps are far too frequent, the facility is not ideal (NO loose foam pits), and there is not a strong enough medical presence. On top of that, the camps put a tremendous strain on coaches who also function as gym owners.

If one were to create a database of the injuries that have occurred at these camps since their inception in 2000, the information would be staggering. Injuries are a natural part of our sport, but it’s clear the frequency increases at the camps.

The camps comprise too much weight in the selection process. There is no substitute for competition, and these camps have killed the meaning of the World Trials and Olympic Trials. Our team’s are now decided behind closed doors and are no longer about who’s necessarily the best…rather who can endure the process. These are NOT necessarily the same thing.

Gymnastics has changed significantly since 1996. The difficulty demands, extinction of compulsories, and huge physical requirements don’t allow for cookie cutter training that can be applied to all gymnasts across the board. Gymnastics requires more specialized training than ever before.

The U.S. National Team Training Camp structure demonstrates how much authority USA Gymnastics provides Marta Karolyi. It’s almost as they believe that the elite scene depends on the Karolyi’s for success, while not nearly enough credit is given to the individual coaches.

I argue that the success of the U.S. program in recent years has more to do with better coaching and the changing global environment and less to do with the training camp system.

Think about it. The National Team and the coaches are required to make the voyage to Marta’s backyard if they wish to be selected for international assignments and receive funding.

Finally, Team USA doesn’t need a two-day National Championship competition and two grueling training camps to select a sound, refreshed, and confident World Championship team.

4.) What do you miss the most about training and competing? What do you miss the least?

Naturally, I miss performing and competing the most.

As a child, I was never really a fan of training, but I do have fond memories of training in 1995 with Alexander Alexandrov. He taught me the majority of the skills I used in 1995 and 1996 and without his guidance, I would’ve never experienced the success I did in those years. I also enjoyed workouts from 2005-2006 when I was training with my husband Mike.

Alexander and Mike had similar philosophies of training smarter, not necessarily harder. I learned a lot about gymnastics from both of them. Mike was trained by a lot of former-Soviets, so he really echoed a lot of Alexander’s methods. Both of them knew how to motivate me without using “fear and shame” tactics.

I don’t miss the unhealthy dieting and the chronic soreness.

5.) Recently, our members posted how they remember you. What do you want to be remembered for?

From my early career, I want to be remembered as a fearless athlete who made gymnastics fun to watch.

During my late teens, I want to be remembered as an artistic gymnast who learned new skills when many counted her out.

But most importantly, I want to be remembered as someone who stood up for what she believed and wasn’t afraid to speak the truth that had been hidden for so many years.

I want to be remembered as someone who sparked significant changes to make gymnastics more healthy and humane at the elite level.

I want to be remembered for my efforts as a mentor and confidant to several Elite gymnasts from 2000-2008 who reached out to me, in confidence, when they felt they couldn’t speak to anyone else.

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