The Incredible Story of Jen Bricker, a Gymnast Born without Legs

Born without legs and given up for adoption, Jennifer Bricker became a world-class aerialist—and got a shocking surprise about her family tree.

Jennifer Bricker dreamed of being a gymnast from a young age. She’d watch the Olympics on TV, following the moves of the U.S. women’s team closely. Dominique Moceanu, the 1996 Gold Medal winner, was her idol.

Bricker had just one challenge to overcome: She was born without legs.

Bricker was given away by her birth parents and left in an orphanage in Romania, but she was adopted by a couple from a small town in Illinois, and raised alongside their three boys. She was raised to believe that she could do anything that they could do, and “can’t” wasn’t part of her vocabulary.

While she used a wheelchair “to keep from getting dirty,” she says, she could propel herself anywhere she wanted to go with her arms. Climbing trees was a favorite past-time, and she played sports from a young age, including baseball, basketball, and yes, gymnastics.

She started tumbling from a young age, learning how to do acrobats moves on a trampoline in her parents’ yard. Soon, she began tumbling professionally, and even became the Illinois State Champion tumbler.

By the age of 16, she’d proven that she could accomplish everything she set her mind to. She knew that her adoptive parents’ attitude towards life had pushed her towards meeting all her goals, but she also wanted to know more about the role her genetics may have played, so she asked her parents what they knew about her biological parents.

As it turned out, they had a big secret for her.

When Bricker’s mother told her that her birth family’s last name was Moceanu, she instantly knew what that meant: Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu was Jennifer’s biological sister.

Four years later, Bricker wrote a letter to Moceanu, including some court documents and photos. “It was December 10, 2007 and it changed my world,” Moceanu later told Oprah, when recounting the story on her show.

Moceanu had never known about the baby girl given away for adoption. She found out that her father had decided to give the baby up as soon as she was born, and never looked back on the decision. Moceanu had a rocky relationship with her parents as well, and was legally emancipated by the age of 17. “Ultimately, that decision was one of the best decisions they ever made because it gave Jen an awesome childhood,” she said.

After discovering the truth, Bricker was able to unite with both Dominique and their other sister, Christina.

“Since then we’ve become close and I feel like a piece of the jigsaw of my life has fallen into place,” Bricker told The Mirror.

She’s also been able to connect with her biological mother, Camelia, who had regretted the decision to give away her newborn baby, but had given in to her husband’s demands.

While Bricker remains very close to her adoptive family, she has forged a new bond with her biological relatives, and continues to inspire everyone around her with her remarkable accomplishments.

Now 27, Bricker performs as a professional aerialist, and has even toured with artists including Britney Spears. She also serves as a motivational speaker, sharing her incredible story with others all over the world.

“ I hope to inspire & motivate others to BELIEVE that anything is truly possible,” says Bricker.

Watch Bricker and Moceanu share their unbelievable story in this inspiring video.

Learn more about Jen Bricker and see incredible footage of her performances at her website.