LIFESTYLE

Inspirational Legless Gymnast Discovers Long-Lost Sister Is Her Olympic Idol

13/11/2014 17:21 GMT | Updated 13/11/2014 17:59 GMT

As a child, acrobat Jen Bricker’s idolised American Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu. She had no idea her hero would turn out to be her long-lost sister.

Jen, 27, was adopted at birth after being born with no legs due to a genetic birth defect.

Despite her disability, growing up, Jen was drawn to gymnastics. After competing in - and winning- competitions at State level, Jen learned that Dominique was actually her biological sister.

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"Some of my earliest memories are of watching gymnastics on TV when I was six years old and trying to imitate the moves," Jen said.

“Dominique was my favourite gymnast. I wouldn’t shut up about her - even at the age of six I fantasised about being related to her.

“When I was 16 I discovered Dominique was actually my sister and I remember thinking these kind of things happen in the movies, this is not real life.”

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Jen, who now lives in Studio City, California, was raised in Oblong, Illinois, by adoptive parents Sharon and Gerald Bricker and three older brothers.

From a young age she was drawn to physical sports including softball, volleyball and gymnastics.

During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA, Jen was transfixed as Dominique became an overnight sensation.

“All I knew of my heritage was that I was Romanian and Dominique was also Romanian. We have the same features and spunky personalities. I was just drawn to her," Jen said.

dominique moceanu

Dominique Moceanu

Inspired, Jen entered gymnastics and tumbling competitions and found she had a natural ability.

She competed in the Junior Olympics and even won a State Championship in tumbling competing against able-bodied people.

However, in her teens she began to wonder about her birth family and right before her sixteenth birthday she asked Sharon for more information.

Jen said: "I wasn’t expecting her to say yes because we’ve always been very open in our family but to my surprise she pulled out a folder of papers.

“She handed a document and said, 'You’re never going to believe this, but your biological last name is Moceanu.'

"As soon as the words left her lips, I knew what it meant - my childhood idol was my sister.”

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It was four years before Jen wrote to Dominique to introduce herself and see whether her biological family knew of her existence.

Jen said: "Just before Christmas, 2007, when I was 21, I opened up a letter and I saw a card fall out and it was from Dominique.

"I saw her signature and it was just the most amazing feeling. Half way through the letter she said I was about to be an auntie, so I knew that they had accepted me immediately.

“Four months later I met Dominique and my younger sister, Christina.

"The similarities were so apparent it was shocking; we sounded alike, our mannerisms were the same and with Christina, especially, it was like looking in the mirror.

"All three of us did gymnastics and Christina loved volleyball, which is my second favourite sport.

"Since then we’ve become close and I feel like a piece of the jigsaw of my life has fallen into place.”

Now Jen works as an acrobat, aerialist and motivational speaker and has even toured with Britney Spears, performing acrobat routines.

She said: "Although people I’ve just met are always amazed by what I can do, outside of work my friends say they forget that I’m any different.

"I use a wheelchair to get around but I feel happiest performing acrobatic feats and hanging from silk threads.

"Right now I’m living my dream - traveling the world and connecting with people from all walks of life."

"We are all born with unique gifts and talents and I want to show people we can use them to change lives. Finding out my idol was my long lost sister was just the beginning, my life has been about making the impossible, possible."

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