Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu reflects on hardships after retirement

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Olympian Dominique Moceanu On Gymnastics' 'Scarring' Body Image Issues

Twenty years ago, the Magnificent Seven, the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team made history.

Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden, and Jaycie Phelps were the first U.S. Olympic team to win gold.

While the legendary team enjoyed much fame and glory after their big win, with a documentary film about their journey, a subsequent press tour, Wheaties endorsement deal -- and a legacy that inspired generations of future U.S. Olympians -- not much has been said about the girls after the whirlwind of attention died down.

SEE MORE: Check out full coverage of Rio 2016

Moceanu, who at 14 was the youngest gold medalist for U.S. Olympics (and still holds the honor), recently dished to AOL about the hardships of reacclimating into society as a former Olympian.

"That transition is really one of the most difficult parts of your post-elite life ... You've accomplished so much, so early, that regular life is almost like a letdown," she said. "You're also lightyears ahead mentally, emotionally when it comes to competition and discipline. I would look at my peers and there was a certain level of maturity I had that none of my peers had and they couldn't understand."

That discipline included 40-plus hours of training a week as a top athlete, as well as other factors we don't often think about. As Moceanu says, as an Olympian, your "whole identity" is shaped by the sport.

"Everything revolved around gymnastics. What you ate, when you slept, the physical therapy you did, taking care of your body, and then all of a sudden, it stops, and no one helps you with your transition," sh explained. "There is a period of time when every Olympic athlete, whether they admit it or not, goes through that post-Olympic weight gain because you're stopping eight hours of training every day and youre eating like a normal person."

Photos of Dominique Moceanu through the years:

20 PHOTOS
Olympian Dominique Moceanu through the years
See Gallery
Olympian Dominique Moceanu through the years
18 Aug 1995: Dominique Moceanu perfoms the floor excercise during the optionals of the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport
ATLANTA, UNITED STATES: Dominique Moceanu of the US performs on the balance beam during the Olympic women's individual all-round gymnastics competition 25 July. Reigning world champion, Lilia Podkopayeva of the Ukraine took the gold (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) AFP PHOTO/IOPP/Eric FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
BOSTON, : The 1996 US Women's Gymnastic's Olympic Team (L-R) Kerri Strug, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique Moceanu, Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, Amy Chow and Amanda Borden pose after the finals of the Women's Optionals at the 1996 US Olympic Gymnastic Team Trials at the Fleet Center in Boston 30 June. The seven women picked will represent the US at the1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO John Mottern (Photo credit should read JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)
21 July 1996: Dominique Moceanu of the USA in action during the women''s team compulsories at the Georgia Dome at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta Georgia. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport
2 OCT 1995: DOMINIQUE MOCEANU OF THE UNITED STATES IN ACTION DURING THE WORLD GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS AT THE FUKUI SUN DOME IN SABAE, JAPAN. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell/Allsport
18 Aug 1995: Dominique Moceanu does her floor exercise during the USA Gymnastics Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport
27 Apr 1995: Dominique Moceanu does the vault during the Visa Gymnastics Challenge in Fairfax, Virginia. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport
1993: Dominique Moceanu does her floor exercise during the Olympic Festival. Mandatory Credit: Gary Newkirk /Allsport
23 Jul 1996: Dominique Moceanu of the United States looks on during a gymnastics event at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell /Allsport
19 Aug 1995: Coach Bela Karolyi speaks with Dominique Moceanu during the USA Gymnastic Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport
27 Apr 1995: Dominique Moceanu waves to the crowd during the Visa Gymnastics Challenge in Fairfax, Virginia. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 23: The US Olympic women gymnastics team (L-R) Amanda Borden, Dominique Dawes, Amy Chow, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique Moceanu, an injured Kerry Strug, and Shannon Miller sing the American national anthem after they won the women's team gynastics event 23 July. (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) IOPP/Daniel GARCIA (Photo credit should read IOP/AFP/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, UNITED STATES: Russian gold medalist Alexei Nemov (C) kisses Dominique Moceanu (R) of the US as gold medalist and teammate Shannon Miller looks on after an exhibition gala at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, 30 July. (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) AFP PHOTO/IOPP/Eric FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, UNITED STATES: Dominique Moceanu of the US Gymnastic team goes through her routine on the balance beam during the Women's all around individual competition at the 1998 Goodwill Games at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY 19 July. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 18: United States gymnast and Olympic gold medal winner Dominique Moceanu at Pop! International Galleries for the opening of Neil Leifer's photo exhibit. She announced the establishment of a fund to assist her with training costs for the upcoming 2000 Summer Olympics. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Olympic champion Dominique Moceanu is on hand at Avalon for the unveiling of the official art of the 2004 Olympics. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Members of the 2004 Rock and Roll Gymnastics team including Paul Hamm, Morgan Hamm, Courtney McCool, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Hollie Vise and Blaine Wilson (Photo by Jason Squires/WireImage)
CHICAGO - JUNE 19: (L-R) 1996 Olympics gymnastics gold medalists Amanda Borden, Shannon Miller, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique Moceanu, and Dominique Dawes walk up towards the stage as they are honored at the 2008 US Olympic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony June 19, 2008, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jerry Lai/Getty Images for USOC)
RIDGEWOOD, NJ - JUNE 12: Dominique Moceanu promotes her new book 'Off Balance' at Bookends Bookstore on June 12, 2012 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Following a series of hardships, including filing for emancipation from her parents and discovering a long-lost sister, Moceanu found her place in the world and discovered the many roles she could fill besides just being an athlete -- including being a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend, a business owner and a New York Times bestselling author.

Now a mother of two, Moceanu is reliving the process with her son, Vincent, who is "showing major, major promise" in the "greatest sport in the world." It makes sense -- with an Olympian as a mom and a former Ohio State gymnast as a dad, he has the genes. But he also has the passion.

"He's absolutely going to be the future of men's gymnastics. He loves the sport so much," she gushed. "It's so wild to see his passion and his love and his drive. We know what it takes at that high level."

At 7 years old, he even has his sights on gold.

"He really thinks he could be better than me ... He's like, 'You only won one medal? I think I can win more.' I'm like, 'One's hard enough but you go for it.' "

While Vincent and his sister, Carmen, are just learning about their mom's impressive past, with "Olympic days" at school -- they might get a better idea this summer. Rio marks the 20th anniversary of the Magnificent Seven, which means a busy summer for Moceanu as she reunites with the entire team for the first time in many years at the Olympic trials .

"The more distance you get, the more you appreciate it -- in a different way," she said. "I did have some difficult challenges throughout my career and my familial situation, but I will always be grateful for the opportunity of competing for the United States on the Olympic team, at home, at the centennial Olympic games. Seeing how a lot of these current girls look up to us and our team ... That's something special that shows how impactful it was for the next generation."

More on AOL.com
The 15 best American Summer Olympic athletes ever
Not all champions can be role models, says swimming great Ian Thorpe
Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs shares tips to a healthy lifestyle

Read Full Story

From Our Partners