In July, it will be 20 years since that famous day in Atlanta when Dominique Moceanu and the U.S. team became “the Magnificent Seven” and won the 1996 Olympic team final. Those Games were definitely not the end of Moceanu’s career; she won the 1998 Goodwill Games and made another comeback in 2006. Today, she is still very much involved in gymnastics, and we caught up with her to discuss her current life and her former competitive career.

Inside Gymnastics: What have you been up to lately?
Dominique Moceanu: My number-one priority is to be a mother to my two brilliant kids, Carmen and Vincent.
My memoir, Off Balance, was published in 2012 and was a New York Times Best Seller. Off Balance has since been printed internationally and will be released in audio format on May 31st of this year. I’ve been fortunate to be active with speaking engagements where I can share the stories that have shaped my athletic, personal, and professional life.

In 2012, I also released my children’s book series with Disney*Hyperion called The Go-For-Gold Gymnasts series. Later this year we’re releasing a bind-up copy of two of the books from the series, Winning Team and Balancing Act, and my friend Simone Biles has written the introduction!

I’ve always loved jewelry and in 2015, I launched a jewelry business, Creations by C&C Dominique Moceanu Signature Collection (www.CreationsbyCandC.com). In addition to creating custom jewelry designs, my signature pendant is something that I’m really proud of. I also started a spin-off of Creations by C&C called “Crystal Couture for Pets,” which is a custom jewelry design line for four-legged loved ones!

I continue to mentor gymnasts, from recreational athletes to 2016 Olympic hopefuls to elite athletes who are making the transition into post-competitive life. This is an area of focus that I’ve got a great deal of passion for. Currently, I’m mentoring Houry Gebeshian as she aims to become the first female gymnast to represent Armenia at The Olympic Games.

Inside: It’s been 20 years since you won gold in Atlanta – can you reflect back on your Olympic experience in general?
Dominique: Our Olympic gold medal changed our lives forever, and it radically transformed the landscape of gymnastics in the United States. Our team victory paved the way for future World team gold medals and Olympic team gold medals, because it served as proof that team championships in women’s gymnastics were not solely reserved for the Soviets or Romanians. I’ve found, too, that the Olympic gold medal gains even more meaning the more distance I get from it. Today, my children draw inspiration from my gold medal, and I’m so proud to have been a member of such a historic team of remarkable women.

Inside: What is your favorite memory from 1996?
Dominique: I’ll never forget when our team met the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team, and they asked for our autographs! Another fond memory was when Bruce Willis and Demi Moore threw our team a surprise celebratory party at Planet Hollywood immediately after the team final.

Inside: Ten years ago, you attempted a comeback that ended when you did not qualify to the 2006 U.S. Championships. Can you comment on this time in your career?
Dominique: To say that I didn’t qualify isn’t accurate. I actually qualified to the 2006 U.S. Championships based on the criteria provided to me and my coach (my husband Michael Canales) by the women’s program committee and USA Gymnastics. It wasn’t until after the 2006 U.S. Classic that the qualifying criteria changed. I discuss this in greater detail in Off Balance.

Even though I was unable to display my hard work and new skills (double layout on floor, Tsukahara with 3/2 twists, and my Podkopayeva vault in the stretched position) at the 2006 U.S. Championships, I still attended the competition for another reason—to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Magnificent Seven victory at the Olympic Games.

I’ll always have fond memories of the time I spent training with my husband, and I’ll never forget how he supported me during the National Team Training Camp in 2006 and during the grievance process. The time during my comeback added a special layer to our relationship that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, because he helped me rediscover my love for gymnastics.

Inside: You qualified to the 1996 Olympics via an injury petition; what is your current take on petitions? Should they still exist in gymnastics?
Dominique: Injuries are a part of gymnastics, and gymnastics will always be a subjective sport. Petitions are in place for unusual circumstances when gymnasts who have demonstrated a high level of potential are unable to compete. Consequently, I do believe the petition process should remain a part of our sport.

Inside: Who are some of your favorite current elite gymnasts to watch?
Dominique: There are so many! Some that really stand out to me and that I love to watch are Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Houry Gebeshian, the Dutch Women’s Team, the British Women’s Team, Oksana Chusovitina, Catalina Ponor, Larisa Iordache, Mai Murakami, Giulia Steingruber, Shang Chunsong, the Ohio State Men’s Gymnastics Team, and Kohei Uchimura, among others.

Inside: Do you think your children will participate in competitive gymnastics?
Dominique: Both of my children have been involved in gymnastics since eight months of age. Carmen enjoys the sport on a recreational level and loves to stretch and do conditioning. She’s actually really good on the rings and shows potential to become a dazzling aerialist. Vincent has really taken to gymnastics. Quite simply, he has already exhibited the physical attributes and mentality to reach the highest pinnacles of the sport if he chooses to follow that path.

Inside: What are your thoughts on 4-member Olympic teams?
Dominique: I think it’s a dreadful idea that will ultimately work against the intended goal of the FIG Executive Committee—which is to increase global popularity of the sport. I fully understand that the IOC must make cuts in the number of athletes permitted to compete to allow more sports into the Olympic Games, but the four-member Olympic team concept will hurt artistic gymnastics in a BIG WAY, because the team competition, all-around final, and event finals will no longer be a true measure of “the best” in the world. Rather, the Olympics will represent an abbreviated and diluted field of gymnasts on the competition floor. Basically, my problem with the four-member team is that it will rob many of the world’s best gymnasts the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games.

Inside: How do you feel gymnastics has changed the most since your competition days?
Dominique: The amplified emphasis on difficulty and the declining value of artistry has been the biggest change in gymnastics. Some would argue the term “artistic” should be dropped from women’s artistic gymnastics. While there are exceptions, the genuinely artistic gymnast does not stand a chance against the trickster with marginal execution in today’s international competitions. While we can all admire the athleticism of today’s routines, the emotionally moving performances of the likes of Dobre, Boguinskaia and Podkopayeva appear to be a thing of the past.

I don’t take issue with a high level of difficulty, because it’s a natural progression of our sport and a vital component of gymnastics. My issue is that the increase in difficulty has occurred oftentimes to the detriment of execution and artistry. Skyrocketing difficulty requirements compounded by the drop of compulsory exercises has led to artistic gymnastics morphing into a changed sport. In the past, compulsories separated the great gymnasts from the good ones and built much-needed suspense for the later rounds of competition.

Regrettably, the FIG has struggled to find a suitable balance between execution and difficulty. This is evident in the current Code of Points, which is ruthlessly lopsided toward difficulty. The FIG’s plan to make execution deductions has now backfired. Since the execution score is capped at 10.0 and the difficulty score has no ceiling, gymnasts and coaches quickly realized the path of least resistance to a high score was to heap on the difficulty, because judges were reluctant to give high execution scores.

It has adversely affected the landscape of the sport for the reason that it made difficulty the priority in gymnastics. The 10.0 based judging system allowed each piece of apparatus to be uniformly weighted. For example, today vaulting has become too heavily weighted for the women because it’s often the event where the highest scores can be achieved. It simply does not make sense to make the most concise apparatus worth the most points in a team and all-around competition. The loss of the 10.0 continues to leave athletes, coaches, judges, and spectators in limbo. The decision to abolish the “perfect 10.0” has been the single most detrimental decision in our sport’s modern history. It took away the most recognizable symbol of our sport’s pursuit of perfection. In some ways, I feel like the decision has robbed us of our identity. As a fan, I miss the days when ten gymnasts had the potential to win the all-around gold medal.

That said, I do still love my sport!

Inside: Who’s your pick to win the Rio all-around?
Dominique: Simone Biles is lightyears ahead of the women’s field, and wild horses won’t be able stop her from reaching her destiny. Our sport has never seen an individual so heavily favored to win the Olympic all-around title as Simone, and I will be cheering her on all the way! Meanwhile, Kohei Uchimura should be as heavily favored as Simone to win the Olympic all-around gold, but the flaws in execution score judging will keep the men’s all-around competition closer than it probably should be. Under the current system, there’s potential for him to be defeated even if he hits six-for-six.

Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dominique: The loyalty of the fans remains the best part of gymnastics today. Despite the issues with the Code of Points, judging controversies, loss of the perfect 10.0, and complicated rules, the loyal fans of our sport continue to attend competitions and maintain a meaningful dialogue about gymnastics. The internet has allowed our sport to transcend geography, so it can be enjoyed by so many people. Social media, blogs, YouTube, and message boards demonstrate that the passion for our sport is alive and well. Perhaps if the FIG Executive Committee listened to the fans a bit more, gymnastics could reach unprecedented heights of global popularity!

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com