Book Reviews

Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu | Book Review

Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu | Book Review Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Original Publication Date: 2012
Source: I purchased this book
Find the Author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Off Balance is the memoir of a great Olympic champion. 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 a 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.

Off Balance: A Memoir is the life story of an Olympic champion.

Dominique Moceanu won an Olympic gold medal along with her Magnificent 7 teammates at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

She was only 14 years old, tiny (4 feet 4 inches tall!), cute, and charismatic.

She has a new memoir called Off Balance: A Memoir, detailing her life as an elite gymnast.

Life As An Elite Gymnast Was Difficult

Her life on and off the gym floor has been difficult. She had complicated relationships with her family and with Bela and Marta Karolyi, her official coaches during her champion years. Her parents were Romanian immigrants, although Dominique and her sister were born in the United States.

While she loved her mother and sister, her relationship with her father was fraught with complications. He was domineering and abusive.

She was a GREAT gymnast. Here she is at the 1996 National Championships which helped get her on that Olympic team:

Dominique Discovers A Huge Family Secret

Off Balance: A Memoir opens when Dominique is an adult and receives the biggest surprise of her life. Her parents had kept a secret from her and her sister for many years.

Dominique is bitter about many things but she also gives praise where it is due.

She actually adored her first coaches.  Dominique was exceptionally talented,  and her father whisked her away to train with the Karolyis.

She was not at all prepared for the transition. She was shy and was used to a positive environment in the gym.

When her favorite coach was fired he was never mentioned again.

Much has been said that she was miserable with the Karolyis. In this book, she seems to be more mystified by their actions.

After the Olympics, they seemed to want to have nothing to do with her.

She won a gold medal but didn’t win any individual medals. That was considered a failure. Even her parents were discouraged from praising her too much.

Moceanu’s body changed rapidly after Atlanta but she still kept pursuing gymnastics.

She had made money from touring in gymnastics shows after the Olympics. Her father had put this money into building a huge gymnasium.

Moceanu famously ran away from home as a teenager. She tried to get legal emancipation from her family. What happened after that is riveting reading.

Final Analysis

Quite frankly, I was surprised by this book. If you read enough gymnastics online you would think that Dominique Moceanu was the devil.

Many people don’t like her because she has voiced her unhappiness with how she was treated many times.

Perhaps because she was so cute and spunky fans just refuse to accept how difficult her life really was.

Moceanu’s book is well-written by her “co-authors” Paul and Teri Williams. The book was far more detailed than I expected, although it does slide over some of the things that happened in her career after 1996.

Moceanu is currently happy and productive, married to a gymnast-turned-physician, and they have two young children. Her children are involved with gymnastics, since she always loved the sport, but not the outside pressures involved with elite gymnastics.

You can check out her website here.

Please check out my review of Something Inside of Me by Chitoka Webb.

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Dominique Moceanu

Dominique Moceanu, born September 30, 1981, is an American author and retired gymnast. She was a member of the gold-medal-winning United States women’s gymnastics team (the “Magnificent Seven”) at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

I love books, writing, film, and television.


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