masked beneath her steely eyes, a different kind of stress was taking its
The pressure of being driven by her parents
to be an Olympic athlete since she was 3 years old finally got to Moceanu
this weekend. On Monday, at age 17, she filed a lawsuit in state district
court in Houston asking to be declared a legal adult so her parents would
not have control over her -- or her money. According to the suit, Moceanu's
father, Dumitru Moceanu, has squandered the money she has earned in her
professional career, which started at age 10.
A judge signed a temporary restraining order
Monday, saying her parents must stay away from Moceanu -- who ran away
from her parents' north Harris County home on Sunday -- until a hearing
is conducted Nov. 11 on her requested adult status. An ad litem attorney
was appointed by the court to represent her interests.
But in an interview Tuesday, Moceanu said the
problem is about much more than money.
"I never had a childhood," Moceanu said sadly,
a change from the intense confidence she normally projects from her five-foot
frame. "When I went to compete when I was young, I always was in fear because
I would get yelled at by my father, and I would say to myself, `I'm 13
years old, come on,' " she said. "Instead of talking to me, they're always
yelling with me, fighting with me," she said.
Although such sentiments are probably those
of any teen-ager, she said her life has been far from typical.
"It always had to be about the gym," Moceanu
said about her relationship with her parents. "I would think, `Don't you
guys know anything besides gymnastics? Can't we go out for ice cream? Can't
you be my mom and dad instead of me being your business?'
"Things have been getting rough for a while,
a lot of people don't know," Moceanu said. "We've been trying to keep things
hidden." She said her father has hit her "a couple of times."
Moceanu's father, who spent some of Moceanu's
earnings opening a gym last year,
to comment. Her mother, Camelia Moceanu, could not be reached for comment.
Moceanu said her parents, who are Romanian
immigrants, are very upset about what has happened.
Moceanu and her lawyer, Roy W. Moore, declined
to say how much money she has made and how much they think has been lost.
Her lawsuit said a trust that had been established for her is all but gone.
Moceanu said her father has made some poor investments with the money,
such as buying property that is polluted.
"I kill myself training and going to school,
and what is he doing with my money?" she said. "They haven't been working
since 1996. Where does their income come from? Me."
Moore said her parents have refused to answer
his client's questions about where her money has gone. He said all that
she needs to prove to receive adult status is that she is living away from
her parents and can support herself. Once she has the status, Moore said,
Moceanu will be able to demand through legal channels to see an accounting
of her money.
Moceanu was born in Los Angeles in 1981, and
she and her parents moved to the Houston area in 1990 so she could train
with famed gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi.
She said she has been "living like a fugitive"
the last couple of days, moving from house to house to make sure her parents
can't find her.
Moceanu, the only member of the 1996 U.S. gold
medal women's gymnastics team still competing in all gymnastics events,
said being away from her parents will help her focus on her training.
"I've been trying to block it out, but with
school and everything I just didn't want this to affect me any more," she
She said she hopes to compete in the world
championship games in China next year and possibly in the 2000 Olympics
in Sydney. But her plans to participate in a competition in Australia in
two weeks may have to be scrapped, she said.
said she reached her breaking point Saturday after her father angrily said
he would fire her coach, Luminita Miscenco, 26, whom Moceanu credits with
helping turn her career around. In August, Moceanu became the first non-Russian
to win the all-around competition in the Goodwill Games.
Moceanu said her father brought Miscenco from
Romania early this year so she could teach at his gym, but he became threatened
by Miscenco because she helped Moceanu understand she should be concerned
about her finances, the young gymnast said.
According to Moceanu, she told her father Saturday
that she would quit if he fired Miscenco, and he replied, "Fine, you're
just going to have to quit gymnastics.' "
She said her father threatened to take actions
to have Miscenco deported to Romania. "I told her, `We're going to stick
together, I'm not going to let you go,' " Moceanu said.
Moceanu said she has been thinking about taking
legal action for some time. She said during a meet in Plano last summer,
retired gymnast Kurt Thomas told her she should think about where her money
is going. She said she called her mother to discuss the matter, and her
father immediately drove to the north Texas city to bring her back.
Moceanu, a senior at the private Northland
Christian School, said she has only had one chaperoned date in her life
and has to hide from her father when she calls friends on the phone.
She stressed that none of her actions had been
motivated by any relationship with a boyfriend and no one has pressured
her, but that she is doing it all on her own.
She said she has a 9-year-old sister who is
also training in gymnastics, and doesn't want to see her sister have the
"I love my parents," Moceanu said. "I hope
that after all this is over, we'll be closer than ever. That would be my
© Copyright 1998
Jason World Entertainment
© Copyright 1998
© Copyright 1998