Jennifer Bricker wanted to be a gymnast; but there was one problem, she was born without legs. This tragic birth defect caused her biological parents to abandon her in Romania the day she was born. An American family, Gerald and Sharon Bricker, adopted Jennifer and raised her in a small town in Illinois.
Even though Jennifer had unique challenges growing up, her parents wouldn’t allow the word “can’t” to enter her vocabulary. The Brickers decided to raise her just like they raised their three healthy sons and encouraged her to pursue her dreams. It was because of their acceptance and love that she never saw her disability as a limitation. Instead, she pursued volleyball, softball, and even basketball. But from the very start, her heart was set on gymnastics.
She loved tumbling on the trampoline with her dad and watching famous gold medalist, Dominique Moceanu on television. The family put her in tumbling and she won state titles and competed in the Junior Olympics.
When her friends would point out how amazing it was that she was so good at tumbling even through she was handicapped, she would say, “I’m not handicapped.” Then they would reply, “Well, you use a wheelchair.” She claimed that the purpose of the wheelchair was just to keep her from getting dirty.
Jennifer always knew she was adopted but didn’t inquire about her adoption until she was 16 years old. That’s when she found out the biggest news of her life; her childhood idol, Dominique Moceanu, was her biological sister.
When Bricker was 16, her parents — an Illinois couple who adopted her as a baby — revealed to her that the gymnast she had been idolizing was actually her older sister. Four years later, Bricker sent a letter to Moceanu.
Published in Moceanu’s new memoir “Off Balance,” the letter included photos and Bricker’s adoptive papers. Bricker wrote to her sister: “I feel that I have one chance to show you and prove to you that I’m not some crazy person, but I’m sure after seeing all of the papers, you’ll see that I’m serious,” the New York Daily reports.
Moceanu, now 30, recounted to ABC her reaction to the letter, “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.”
When she confronted her parents, they told her that Bricker was born the day after Moceanu’s sixth birthday. Moceanu’s mother, Camelia, said that her husband, Dmitry, forced her to give up the baby, saying that they couldn’t afford the medical care that would be necessary.
“I never saw my baby. I never held her, never touched her, never even smelled her. I desperately wanted to, but your father told me we had to give her up and that was that,” Camelia said.
Moceanu had had a tumultuous relationship for years with her parents, who had been athletes and put her in gymnastics at age three. At 17, Moceanu legally emancipated herself from her parents, whom she claimed had repressed her and squandered her fortune, the Daily Mail reports. She also had a restraining order against her father, who had stalked her and who she feared had hired someone to kill two of her close friends. They later reconciled and Dmitry walked Moceanu down the aisle at her 2006 wedding before he passed away in 2008.
The sisters now have a close bond and continue to marvel at their similarities. “The tones in our voices, our handwriting, the way we laugh and chuckle. It’s mind-blowing,” Moceanu told ABC.
Now, Bricker is a professional acrobat and has even toured with Brittney Spears. She lives in California and has reunited with her biological mother, Camelia.