NEW YORK – Dominique Moceanu (Houston, Texas) became the first non-Russian woman to win a Goodwill Games all-around gold medal as gymnastics competition opened at the 1998 Goodwill Games Sunday evening at Nassau Coliseum.


“I’ve always dreamed of this moment,” said Moceanu, who wiped away tears as the Star Spangled Banner played in her honor. “I was always hoping this would happen someday. I’m coming back after a really rough time. After what I’ve been through, this means so much more.”

Moceanu, a member of the USA women’s squad that won the team gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, led the star-studded field from her very first event, uneven bars, to tally a score of 38.662, easily outdistancing Romanians Maria Olaru and Simona Amanar, who placed second and third, respectively. Moceanu, the product of Romanian parents, gave tremendous praise to her coach of the last seven months, Luminita Miscenco.
“She has helped me so much with everything,” Moceanu said, “with my outlook on life and outlook on everything in general. She put me back on track, and I couldn’t have done this without her. She’s so close to me, she’s like my sister and my best friend.”

In an evening that saw even the reigning world champion, Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina, suffer a fall, Moceanu was rock steady despite battling a head cold. The event that provide the greatest challenge of the evening, balance beam, gave Moceanu the edge. Her 9.750 was .125 ahead of Olaru and .450 better than Khorkina, who won the silver medal in the event at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“I’ve been sick the last couple of days,” she said. “I had a fever last night, but I just tried not to think about it today and do the best that I know I can. I knew that if I hit, I could place somewhere in the top three. There were a couple of things I could have done better, but I’m pretty happy with everything I did.”
Sierra Sapunar (Wyoming, Ohio), the other USA entrant, battled back after hyperextending both of her knees during a warm-up vault before the competition to place fifth with a score of 37.587. Her score of 9.525 on balance beam ranked her fourth among the evening’s competitors in that event.
Competition continues Monday evening at the Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum with men’s all-around, featuring American Blaine Wilson (Columbus, Ohio) against defending world champion Ivan Ivankov of Belarus and Russian challengers Aleksei Nemov and Aleksei Bondarenko.

Women’s Individual All-Around Final

1, Dominique Moceanu, Houston, Texas, 38.662. 2, Maria Olaru, Romania, 37.975. 3, Simona Amanar, Romania, 37.850. 4, Meng Fei, China, 38.837. 5, Sierra Sapunar, Wyoming, Ohio, 37.587. 6, Olga Teslenko, Ukraine, 37.745. 7, Svetlana Khorkina, Russia, 37.412. 8 (tie), Zeena McLaughlin, Australia, and Ling Jie, China, 37.212. 10, Yelena Produnova, Russia, 36.775. 11, Alena Polozkova, Belarus, 36.550.