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Off Balance: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Dominique Moceanu , Paul and Teri Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 12 2012
In this searing and riveting New York Times bestseller, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu reveals the dark underbelly of Olympic gymnastics, the true price of success…and the shocking secret about her past and her family that she only learned years later.

At fourteen years old, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, the first and only American women’s team to take gold at the Olympics. Her pixyish appearance and ferocious competitive drive quickly earned her the status of media darling. But behind the fame, the flawless floor routines, and the million-dollar smile, her life was a series of challenges and hardships.

Off Balance vividly delineates each of the dominating characters who contributed to Moceanu’s rise to the top, from her stubborn father and long-suffering mother to her mercurial coach, Bela Karolyi. Here, Moceanu finally shares the haunting stories of competition, her years of hiding injuries and pain out of fear of retribution from her coaches, and how she hit rock bottom after a public battle with her parents.

But medals, murder plots, drugs, and daring escapes aside (all of which figure into Moceanu’s incredible journey), the most unique aspect of her life is the family secret that Moceanu discovers, opening a new and unexpected chapter in her adult life. A mysterious letter from a stranger reveals that she has a second sister—born with a physical disability and given away at birth—who has nonetheless followed in Moceanu’s footsteps in an astonishing way.

A multilayered memoir that transcends the world of sports, Off Balance will touch anyone who has ever dared to dream of a better life.

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Off Balance: A Memoir + Winning Balance: What I've Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams + Letters to a Young Gymnast
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Product Description

Review

“A rousing, intimate memoir… relentlessly candid.” (Vogue.com) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Dominique Moceanu is the youngest American gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal, and the youngest to win a Senior National All-Around Title. She lives near Cleveland, Ohio. Visit Dominique-Moceanu.com.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars unusual life of a world-renowned gymnast Aug. 1 2013
By Anne Dupont Salter TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
You'd expect Dominique Moceanu's biography to be similar to all world-caliber gymnasts': lots of hard work, some abuse from the coaches, food deprivation, and a sense of loss and direction after the Olympics. This is very different - although we encounter the typical life events of a gymnast, Dominique is writing specifically about the discovery of an unknown sister, given away at birth, and how she discovered and connected with this sister - very surprising!
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5.0 out of 5 stars good book Feb. 25 2013
By Ailicec
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a gymnast I very much appreciated this book. Dominique doesn't seem as bitter as some other gymnasts that I've read and she does a very good job of revealing the terrible training techniques of some of the "best" coaches.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Save Your Money Aug. 22 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book when I learned that the parents of gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu, had a daughter born without legs who was given up for adoption at birth. The child, Jennifer grew up idolizing Dominique Moceanu never knowing that the gymnast was her sister. Despite all her physical challenges, Jennifer Bricker grew to be a strong independant woman who participated and excelled at many sports, including gymnastics.

I found myself skimming through the lengthy narrative of Dominique's rise to fame, instead opting to search out bits of the story of the younger Moceanu who was given up because of a birth defect.

In conclusion, more Bricker less Moceanu.
Save your money for that book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  178 reviews
62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Memoir - Answers Questions for Fans and Makes People Think June 14 2012
By Joe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A memoir is the story of a person's life and their experiences and no one should be entitled to review that. Accordingly, this review focuses only on how the information is presented and whether the audience of potential buyers would take an interest in it.

As fans of celebrities we pick up on a person during or after their major achievements. In the case of Moceanu (for most) this would be 1996 when she and the U.S. Woman's team won a gold medal in the team competition for gymnastics. She was just 14 years old. I assumed it took a lot of hard work to get there, and that the path was not easy. I also assumed that it was a childhood lost and replaced with the hard work and determination of an adult. This book certainly confirms these theories. I feel I can write this without it being a real spoiler for anyone.

We (the public) see the glorious results and have some appreciation for how difficult it is to achieve the results, but no true understanding. This memoir humanizes Moceanu's achievements and it does it in an incredibly well thought out and touching way. For example, most fans knew her family was Romanian - but probably few considered what that truly meant. It meant that Moceanu is a first generation American who came from a poor family of immigrants... a family which had a financially unsteady situation. It may be hard enough to achieve greatness, but it is even harder living in a two-bedroom apartment with your parents, sister and grandparents. Most great gymnasts tend to be on the small side, but have any fans considered what it is like to be the smallest person in your class selected last to play a sport in gym class, have a funny sounding name and come to school with food that is unlike your classmates' food at lunch time? No one imagines the small tiny hardships that add up to a difficult life when they see a girl and a gold medal on a podium in front of the entire world. This memoir helps you to relate to Moceanu as a human - a young girl who faced kids in school as cruel as the ones you went to school with, but she faced them with much more adversity than most of us did in our own lives.

It is a poorly kept secret that elite child athletes often face abuse (which comes in multiple forms: physical, mental, emotional). Gymnastics seems to be particularly notorious for this. What I appreciate about this memoir is that it reads like someone trying to tell a story as a way of explaining their life... and not like someone who has an ax to grind. Many memoirs are "grinding axes" in disguise, but fortunately this does not come off as one of them in my opinion.

Moceanu does a great job reflecting on what was great in her childhood and what she appreciated about her life as well as noting things she has set out to change about her own children's childhood. It also brings an additional remarkable component about her lost sister and how the discovery altered everything she knew and perceived about her family which, frankly, was already enough for ten lifetimes!

If I had one criticism of the book it is the way in which the chronology was broken up to weave past and current together (i.e. the story of her lost sister). It was awkward to follow and I think the reader's feeling of being disjointed outweighed what Moceanu was probably going for by doing it. This is a small issue mentioned only because no product review should fail to mention "the negative".

The story is remarkable and inspiring, there is no question of that. It is told well and with great detail that takes a lot of courage to share with other human beings (let alone publish in a book). You do feel that you are a better person for having understood the path someone else experienced in life and the challenges they faced and the lessons they learned. You can not ask for more after reading a memoir. Highly recommended.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Off Balance: A Memoir June 20 2012
By S. D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A brave and honest revealing of the dramatic personal life of a gymnastic icon. While Dominique's story is most unusual and unique and quite "mind blowing", the book also has several important layers that stick in the mind long after the book has been digested. How well are our young athletes protected in training? What priority does their health and well being have? How fair is the system that selects them for team participation?

The book is easy to read. I also appreciate the robust and sophisticated presentation of chapters in the book. The format allowed two very diverse but extraordinary components to be presented as equal centerpieces in Dominique's dramatic story.

The most remarkable, amazing, and inspirational of all is how healthy and well grounded a woman Dominique has become. I salute Dominique as a loving woman, wife, mother, sister, and articulate advocate for the young gymnastic athletes of tomorrow. A fascinating read.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a remarkable woman! June 18 2012
By Gabi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of Dominique's for as long as I can remember. Living in Brazil, it wasn't always easy to follow her career in a time when we didn't have youtube, facebook or twitter... I grew up watching her perform in the world's most prestigious competitions, and ultimately watched her become an Olympic Champion in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. What I loved most about her was that big, beautiful smile she flashed to the audience and the cameras whenever she was performing that just made everything look so easy and effortless! I guess that's why America and the world fell in love with her. But little did we know that behind all that, there was a terrified little girl who was being physically, emotionally and mentally abused and humiliated by the very people who were supposed to love, care and protect her.
This book does a great job in telling the whole story from Dominique's point of view maybe for the first time ever. She's blunt honest, straight forward in telling the story of her own life, and for the first time we can really understand where she's coming from and what was happening in her life before, during and after Atlanta. The family feud, the loss of all her money, her escape from home at the age of seventeen, the freedom, the parties, the drugs and all the injuries that ultimately took their toll on her and forced her to retire prematurely. Not to mention her secret sister!
But one of the most interesting issues mentioned by her is the politics behind the US Women's Gymnastics program and how ugly and unfair it can be. I was shocked to hear about her life with the Karolyis, especially because, like many others, I believed the show they put on for the cameras! I can honestly say that I lost all the respect I had for them, and, no matter how many medals they have under their belt (and at the expense of how many gymnasts!), they will never be more than losers to me. It truly disgusted me!
But better than everything else was just discovering what an amazing, strong, beautiful (inside and out!) woman Dominique turned out to be after everything she's been through. She's been to hell and back in more ways than one, but somehow managed to stay true to herself and learn from her experiences. The last chapter brought tears to my eyes as she described the last days with her father and how they reconciled... All in all, it is a beautiful story worth of everybody's attention - gymnastics fan or not! - and I'm really proud to say I'm a fan of hers!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read!! Aug. 3 2012
By Tigger78 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I very rarely read biographies. In fact I can think of only one other one I've read (that wasn't a school assignment). I love watching gymnastics and saw this book so I got a sample sent to my Kindle.

One person's review said they weren't sure of why she started with the chapter about her sister. I personally think it was a brilliant move. It draws you in and laid the ground work for describing who her parents were as people in the next chapter.

I was appalled by many of the things mentioned in the book about the world of gymnastics but I can't say that I'm surprised. Another review I read on here alluded that "official" book reviews/media sources were stating that "she can't back it up" or that "she was bitter." To this I would say that I remember hearing mumblings (I think it was after the 96 Olympics) about how "not nice" Bela Karolyi was.

I think that because it is shocking and appalling because people don't WANT to believe it. People most likely think that: Surely in this day and age this couldn't be taking place in a place like the US.

For me it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to believe. When I was telling my mother about the book her first comment was: "Sounds very European to me."(Meaning reminiscent of the Soviet Union methods in years past). To illustrate I have two words: Elena Mukhina. A Soviet Woman gymnast that was pushed to do a tumbling pass that was beyond her capabilities and strength, as well as beyond her comfort. The result was that she broke her neck. Granted, she was a Soviet Woman and the Karoylis are Romanian but both places were communists countries at their height and, as such, had very similar views on their athletes. (Ironically the reason she was pushed to do this was because of entrance of one Nadia Com'neci to the gymnastic forum. And who was Nadia Com'neci's coach? Bela Karolyi.)

Bottom line is that it really what naysayers think. It is not so unreasonable to put legislation in to place to protect our youthful athletes. We protect our child stars: How many hours they can work, laws about their getting schooling, etc. California also has the Coogan law to help protect some of the earnings of child actors. Something like this should be considered for child athletes as well.

I do agree with the one reviewer that the writing was a little dry in a few spots and not necessarily written with a skill that one would expect of a published book but I found these things easy to overlook because the story is so enthralling. Don't get me wrong, this book is NOT poorly written. It's hard for me to articulate exactly what I mean. The best I can do is say I have read a lot of books, mostly fiction, (I own about 10,000 books) and it doesn't quite have the polish that a professional writer would have. But you know going in that writing is not her profession so I found it easy to overlook. In my opinion, you wouldn't expect an author to do a cartwheel with the polish and grace of a gymnast; you can't expect a gymnast to have the polish of a professional author.

Another person complained about how she goes on and on about her "perfect husband." I didn't find it that bad. Yes, to some degree I could agree with that reviewer but I found it more sweet. To me it was like she was trying to convey to the readers all her overwhelming love and admiration for this man into words and no words seemed adequate so she just kept adding more words.

Overall, it something everyone should read and hopefully some laws can be enacted to help protect all our young athletes.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into Moceanu's life Aug. 1 2012
By M. Palasik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really liked this book and found Moceanu's perspective about her trying and highly publicized life very interesting and a bit sad. Yes, I finished this book the day after the USA women's team won the Olympic team gold again - for the first time since Moceanu's team.

I was a gymnast from the age of 4 through high school. I was never a club or Elite gymnast by any means, but I could hold my own in my high school conference. Needless to say, I have been a fan of gymnastics for years and remember watching the 1996 Olympics.

This book is about Moceanu's life; not just the Olympics, not just the Karolyi's, and just her emancipation, and not just her recently found sister. This covers everything, and that is a lot to cover in one book. At times I wished for more details about events, especially the Olympics and the emancipation trial. However, during the Olympics, Moceanu was a young girl and she purposefully didn't watch her teammates' routines so as not to throw off her concentration, so she doesn't have many details to share about those specific meets. Also, I'm sure even thinking about the emancipation trial is still difficult for her, so I can't fault her for not writing much about it.

She jumped around in the book a bit, it did not flow chronologically which was confusing at times. The chapter titles tell you what it will be about, but there was still some timeline jumping throughout.

I was very interested to hear her take on the Karolyi's. I've heard mixed reviews about their practices over the years, especially after Kerri Strug's famous vault. For gymnasts to be competing at the level that we see them on TV, one has to expect them to work hard and their time in the gym will be tough. However, Moceanu's descriptions of how she was treated by the Karolyi's before the Olympics and even in years after the Olympics are deplorable. Yes, this is one girl's experience and possibly not everyone was treated like that at the time and isn't even now. Even so, this was her experience and how she internalized it and remembers it, and it breaks my heart. Then, in the past few years for her to be blackballed essentially and not allowed to compete even after doing all that was asked of her is just plain wrong. There is too much bureaucracy in gymnastics, and she's right, "Do we really want someone who financially benefits from hosting training camps telling us we need more of these camps throughout the year? Shouldn't an unbiased individual...be making those decisions?"

Overall, I thought it was a good book. It makes me look differently at the sport that I love to watch - especially during Olympic games. Also, the pages of photos in the center of the book were nice to see - young Moceanu through her children and reunion with her sister.

Watch Bela during interviews - he really is a sleazy suave guy, isn't he?
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