By Megan Rice
Imagine discovering years later that your childhood role model growing up is your long-lost sister. It seems so far- fetched like something in a movie. For Jennifer Bricker, however, that was reality.
It may seem like a dream come true, but she has had quite a few hardships to overcome in her life.
Bricker was abandoned at birth by her biological parents because she didn’t have legs. However, she was fortunate to be adopted by loving parents, Gerald and Sharon Bricker, who treated her just the same as their three healthy sons.
Growing up, Bricker was taught by her adoptive parents that she could do anything, despite her disability. They told her never to use the word “can’t.” From the start, she was a well-rounded athlete, playing basketball, volleyball, softball, and her favorite–gymnastics. Bricker’s dream was to be a gymnast and she was determined to overcome her setbacks, no matter how difficult.
As a young gymnast, Bricker enjoyed watching Dominique Moceanu, famous gold medalist gymnast, on TV. She became a role model for Bricker as she learned to tumble, constantly practicing on her backyard trampoline. Soon enough, not only was Bricker placed in competitions, she was winning!
When Bricker was sixteen, she finally asked her mom if there was anything she knew about her real parents. Sharon Bricker revealed to her daughter that her biological last name would have been Moceanu. At that moment, Jennifer Bricker knew that the girl who had inspired her all these years and had been her motivation was actually her biological sister.
Dominique Moceanu was born on September 30, 1981 to Dumitru and Camelia Moceanu, Romanian immigrants. By the age of three, Moceanu was enrolled in her first gymnastics class. With both parents having backgrounds in gymnastics, the family moved from Florida to Texas so ten-year-old Moceanu could train with the renowned Romanian coach Bela Karolyi. She became the youngest member of “The Magnificent Seven” in the 1996 Olympics.
However, Dominique Moceanu did not live the glamorous lifestyle that she appeared to have. Her “childhood,” or lack thereof, was extremely stressful according to her book Off Balance: A Memoir. Moceanu says the father who gave up Bricker “ruled our house with an iron fist.” She claims she was always “walking on eggshells” waiting for him to make a scene.
She was even under pressure at the gym, hiding severe pain in order to not disappoint her strict coaches. In the summertime, she would train for hours in the heat without air-conditioning or food. The pressure her coaches put on her resulted in her body image issues, causing her to think she was fat even though she only weighed seventy pounds at the age of fourteen.
“I had been so obedient for so long, trying to follow all of their rules to the letter, but no matter how well I listened, I was still scolded and humiliated and made to feel worthless, stupid, and, yes, fat. What did I have to lose?” recalls Moceanu.
Even as her team won the Olympic gold medal, Moceanu was worried about what her parents and coaches would say about her landing in the routine.
“It was hard to be happy when I felt I wasn’t perfect enough for them. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be happy,” she recalls.
At age seventeen, Dominique Moceanu legally emancipated herself from her parents after discovering that her father had stolen about one million dollars of her earnings.
Four years after Bricker found out about her long-lost sister, she decided to write a letter to Moceanu.
“It was the biggest bombshell of my life. Rage was my first emotion, had my life been a lie? I had this sister that was born who was given up for adoption, and I never knew it,” recalled Moceanu.
Five weeks after Bricker sent the letter, Moceanu picked up the phone to call her. After a long conversation, ready to hang up, Bricker blurted out “By the way, you know I have no legs, right?”
Since then, Jen, Dominique, and other sister Christina Moceanu have developed a relationship and are constantly amazed by their unbelievable similarities.
Bricker has also contacted her biological mother, who claimed she had no choice whether she could keep the baby or not.
“I never saw my baby. I never held her, never touched her, never even smelled her. I desperately wanted to, but her father told me we had to give her up and that was that,” Camellia Mocecanu said.
The two are on good terms and plan to move forward.
Jen Bricker, now twenty-seven, couldn’t be happier and is continuing on the road to success, performing as a professional acrobat, even touring with Britney Spears.