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Acrobat Born Without Legs & Given Up for Adoption Discovers Olympic Hero Is Actually Her Older Sister

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Jennifer Bricker, an incredible gymnast who was born without legs, never planned to seek out her biological family. She had everything she wanted in the parents who had raised her.

But during her teen years, after a friend who had also been adopted at a young age started pursuing her roots, Bricker suddenly found herself growing curious too.

The future athlete had been given up for adoption by a Romanian couple living in Illinois who feared that they would not be equipped to handle their daughter’s birth defects.

In addition to her missing legs, Bricker was born with her heart on the wrong side of her chest. As a result of the complications, her biological parents were overwhelmed by the idea of coping with her additional needs.

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However, the couple who adopted the little girl felt just the opposite.

Prior to adopting, the Brickers already had three sons. But they felt that their family wasn’t yet complete.

“I always wanted a little girl to raise,” Sharon Bricker told ESPN in a video that has been removed from the site. “So I just prayed for a little girl that needed a home.”

They soon found one.

Welcoming Jennifer into their family, her new parents taught her that there was nothing she couldn’t do and that she was strong enough. Not only that, but they taught her that she could compete.

“I was adopted by the parents that were supposed to have me, that raised me with a mindset to do anything and to never say can’t,” Bricker told Inside Edition.

The couple recognized early on that their daughter possessed incredible strength and athleticism, so they began encouraging her to participate in sports at a young age.

They pushed Bicker to stay active, in spite of her circumstances, and under the wings of their support, Bricker embraced her challenges, thriving in every sport she played.

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Soon she found herself falling in love with gymnastics in particular, all thanks to her new hero.

In 1996, Bricker watched 14-year-old Dominique Moceanu compete in the summer Olympics and become the youngest U.S. gymnast ever to secure a gold medal.

The teenage Olympian was everything Bricker wanted to be. What’s more, the two girls looked alike and shared Romanian heritage.

Excited to look up to someone she seemed to have so much in common with, Bricker idolized Moceanu as she pursued her own career in gymnastics, aerial acrobatics and trampoline.

“Dominque was definitely my favorite athlete growing up,” she told ESPN.

“She looks just like me and she’s Romanian and I love gymnastics and she’s a gymnast, so it was just all of those things on a kid level that drew me to her,” she said.

But as the family watched Moceanu compete, Bricker’s mother began to realize that the resemblance between her daughter and the famed gymnast wasn’t just coincidence.

During one of the Olympian’s performances, the camera panned to Moceanu’s parents — a Romanian couple living in Illinois, whose names Sharon knew she would find on Jennifer’s adoption papers.

“Her idol was actually her sister,” Sharon Bricker said.

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#TBT #Gymnastics #Moceanu Photography by Robert Scheer

A post shared by Dominique Moceanu (@dominiquemoceanu) on

The adoptive mom knew she was in for a tough conversation the day 16-year-old Jennifer finally asked for more information about her biological family.

“I said ‘Okay, Jen maybe you should sit down.’ And she said, ‘Mom I’m always sitting; maybe you should sit,'” she remembered.

“She tells me my biological last name was Moceanu and immediately, obviously I knew what that meant and was flabbergasted,” Bricker said of the conversation.

Stunned, Bricker wasn’t sure what to do with the information. After growing up in a family of boys, she could hardly believe that she not only had a sister, but had a sister she’d looked up to for years without knowing the truth.

After much consideration, she decided to write to Moceanu, explaining her story.

Meanwhile, Moceanu had no idea that her parents had given a baby up for adoption in 1987. When she received Bricker’s letter, Moceanu originally assumed it was from a fan.

“I looked at the photographs and then I looked at the letter,” she remembered. “I just couldn’t believe it. I just started crying. I knew that very moment that it was for real.”

No one could deny the resemblance — they were sisters. Through phone calls, the two women, along with Moceanu’s youngest sister, began to form a relationship and discovered that they had a lot in common besides genetics.

Bricker opened up about her missing limbs, leaving her sisters shocked and in awe of amazed of the incredible life and career Bricker had created for herself.

“I always will look up to her, and she’s someone that I’m so proud of,” Moceanu said. “She is a super hero.

Moceanu had grown up in a competitive household, often living under the heavy demands and harsh treatment of gymnastics coaches who she said cared more about victory than about kindness.

She recalled to ESPN that her childhood had not been an easy one, and she was glad that Bricker had been able to find a home where she was encouraged.



“We were raised in totally polar opposite families, totally different households,” Bricker said. “And yet, the DNA just bonded us.”

“The most important thing is that we’re in each other’s lives now,” her sister echoed. Moceanu was able to attend Bricker’s wedding, supporting her little sister during the festivities. Both found it hard to believe that for most of their lives, they hadn’t known just how closely their stories were linked.

“It will never, ever stop being absolutely amazing,” Bricker said.

The Western Journal reached out to Jennifer Bricker but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.

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Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
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