The Loaded Expectations and Hopes of a Fan Relationship

A group of gymnasts at the 2008 Olympics. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

The fan relationship is often built on expectations and hope, however unfair they might be. My expectation going to Dominique [Moceanu]’s hotel that night in 1998 was that she’d come down from her room even after a long day of training and competing, and grant me an autograph or, if I was really lucky, a picture. My hope was that somehow she’d see how much we had in common – Isn’t Anne Frank’s diary so beautiful and sad? I’d ask, right there in the hotel, and we’d immediately bond. My celebrity crush is Leo, too – natch! I’d say while we watched “Titanic” together.

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The fact of the matter is that Dominique and I are not best friends, not the way I’d once dreamed we would be. But I also realized that I no longer even wanted that, to the extent that it was ever possible, because that would mean I would have to shed the last remnants of that fan’s adulation to see her as an equal. Of course, I have a relationship with her that I would’ve died for when I was a kid. Instead of sending American flag-decorated letters into the ether, I can e-mail or text or call – Happy birthday! Your haircut looks awesome! How are the kids? – and Dominique will respond. Together, we’ve created something that we’re immensely proud of, a series that will hopefully inspire generations of young gymnasts in the way that Dominique inspired me.

Young adult novelist Alicia Thompson writing in Narratively about her relationship with gymnast Dominique Moceanu. Thompson idolized Moceanu growing up; years later the two wrote the childrens’ series Go-for-Gold Gymnasts together.

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