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Born without legs but….everything is possible

Jen shares her inspiring story

Jen Bricker, 32, doesn’t let anything hold her back…

Staring at the TV screen, I gasped in admiration.  

The incredible Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu was leaping right through the air.  

‘She’s amazing. I want to be like her,’ I breathed.  

‘Well you know you can. Don’t let anything hold you back,’ my mum, Sharon, encouraged me

She and my dad, Gerald, had always told me that I could do anything.  

And despite being born without legs, due to a birth defect, I was determined to achieve my dreams.  

My parents had adopted me as a baby. I didn’t know much about my birth family, apart from that they were originally from Romania.  

‘You didn’t walk in their shoes, so you don’t know why they gave you up,’ Dad would say. ‘But it doesn’t matter, you were meant to be here with us.’ 

With three brothers – Greg, Brian and Brad – I felt incredibly lucky. I’d join in with climbing trees and jumping on our trampoline.  

I had been given prosthetic legs and a wheelchair, but I found they usually slowed me down, so most of the time, I’d get about without them. 

Aged seven, I started tumbling classes, learning flips and twists, and I loved watching gymnastics on TV.  

Dominique was my favourite because she looked just like me.  

We shared the same dark hair and tanned skin. 

I covered my wall with posters of her, and it was she who inspired me to want to be a gymnast.  

Dominique Moceanu
I loved watching Dominique on TV

When I was eight, I was invited to join the competition team in my tumbling club. As well as being assessed for the movements, I’d also be judged on my landing, so I had to work out alternative ways to land, such as using my core to lessen the bounce. 

Over the next four years, I went in competitions across the country.  

And when I won a power tumbling competition, aged 10, I was the first person without legs to win a championship.  

I even competed in the Junior Olympics, coming fourth place.  

‘We are so proud of you,’ Mum cried.  

In my teens, I stopped competing as I wanted to enjoy regular life.  

Despite being raised in such a loving family, I also started thinking about my birth family.  

Curious, when I was 16, I asked Mum, ‘What’s my biological surname?’  

‘It’s Moceanu,’ she said.  

Instantly, I thought about Dominique – we had the same name!  

‘That means Dominique’s my sister,’ I cried.  

Jen Bricker performing
I’ve never let anything hold me back

‘Yes,’ Mum said.  

I couldn’t believe the person I’d idolised growing up was actually my sister!  

My parents explained they’d worked it out a few years earlier when watching Dominique at the Olympics.  

The camera had cut to her parents and their names had flashed up on the screen. But they’d decided to stay quiet until the time was right.  

I wanted to reach out to Dominique, but I knew it would sound unbelievable.  

So, my Uncle Gary, who’s a private investigator, contacted my birth parents. They didn’t deny having put me up for adoption, but they stopped returning his calls. 

A few years later, I sent Dominique a letter.  

I’m your biological sister. I’ll take a DNA test, I wrote.  

A few weeks later, Dominique sent me a Christmas card, saying she believed me. She also told me she was pregnant and I was about to become an auntie!  

Soon after, Dominique phoned me. We spoke for ages about our lives.  

‘You were my idol when  

I was a kid,’ I gushed. ‘Also, I don’t have legs,’ I added.  

‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ Dominique exclaimed.  

She told me I had another sister, Christina, so the three of us arranged to meet.  

Mum and Dad were very supportive of me going.  

Seeing them for the first time, it was obvious we were sisters – we all looked so alike.  

‘It’s like looking in a mirror!’ Christina said.  

I also got to meet my new baby niece, Carmen.  

Jen Bricker and sisters
Dominique, Christine and me

We quickly formed a bond and all kept in touch.  

In the meantime, I carved out a career as an aerialist, performing acrobatically across the world. I even toured with Britney Spears!  

A few years after the reunion with my sisters,  

I met my biological mum.  

By then, my birth dad had passed away.  

She explained that it wasn’t her choice to put me up for adoption, but it had happened because of my disability.  

Being a poor immigrant family, they were worried about the cost and whether I’d have medical issues.  

‘I don’t resent you,’ I said.  

Showing her videos of my performances, she told me, ‘I could never have given you that life.’  

Jen Bricker speaking at an event
Speaking at an event

I still see her and my two sisters regularly and they’ve all met my adoptive family.  

Nowadays, I’m still performing as an aerialist, but I’m also a motivational speaker and I wrote a book, Everything Is Possible – which has been printed in 11 different languages. 

I want to inspire people and encourage them to achieve their dreams.  

Speaking all over the world led me to meeting my husband, Dominik. He attended an event in Austria and messaged me after.  

Now, we do motivational talks together. 

Just like Mum always told me, I want people to know that everything is possible.  

I believe I was born to inspire others. My life is proof that you should never give up. ● 

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