Most people might think if you want to be a gymnastics champion you need legs. But just ask Jen Bricker if that's true. She'll tell you otherwise. "If you're never given limits, you think you can do anything," says Bricker, who because of a birth defect, has no legs. Born in Illinois in 1987, her biological parents feared they couldn't afford the cost of caring for their daughter. So she was adopted by an American couple and raised in Oblong, a tiny town in Illinois. Bricker's loving parents always encouraged her to pursue her dreams and never say the word "can't."
Bricker's dream? To be a champion gymnast. At 7, she started working on the trampoline. By the time she was in high school, she became the power tumbling champion of Illinois, winning the state medal for gymnastics, against those who had had no physical challenges. She has since competed in the Junior Olympics and was a featured acrobat on Britney Spears' Circus tour and performed as an aerialist at Lincoln Center.
When she was 16, Bricker's parents revealed that her biological parents' last name was Moceanu. Yes, Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu, Bricker's idol and inspiration to become a gymnast at 7, turned out to be her biological sister. The sisters have since reconnected, are best of friends, and share a very close bond. "When I was younger, people asked if you could magically have legs, would you do it?," says Bricker. " I always came back with the same answer, which was, no." As she further explains, "My entire purpose in life is based on the fact that I don't have legs. I always knew I was supposed to be born like that. This is how I can effect change. I feel blessed that I can use my passion to help and hopefully inspire other people." Bricker now lives in Los Angeles, travels the world performing and is a motivational speaker.
Jen Bricker has reached heights that many people who don't have limitations never achieve. And Bricker is not alone. Click on this story in Parade to learn about others, who like Bricker, rose to seemingly insurmountable heights, despite their challenges. These people inspire us.