Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles

31847558Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast and one of the best (if not the best) we’ve ever seen. She doesn’t just win, she blows the competition away by full points. My fav, Aly Raisman, even joked that winning the all-around silver at the Rio Olympics was like winning first because no one had a chance when competing against Simone.

Simone’s memoir takes a surface look at her life from bouncy toddler of a mother who had to give her up to her grandparents (who adopted her and became her parents) to Olympic Gold Medalist. Gymnastics (or at least tumbling) seemed to come naturally to her and you can feel her joy for the sport in the pages. Her concentration on things like deals about belly button rings display her bubbly personality and youth. She’s surprisingly self-aware her bad attitude in practice as she went through her teen years, which is refreshing if hard to believe.

The book ends with her carrying the flag for the U.S. delegation into the closing ceremonies of the Rio Olympics. She’s upbeat, positive, and full of possibility. She only has good things to say about USAG, the Ranch, and her experience in gymnastics. Reading it after Aly’s book and knowing her #metoo story, I wonder how she’d change things today. Nevertheless, I look forward to Simone’s return to competition and the continuation of her story!

Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything by Aly Raisman

As you can see, I didn’t come close to my reading goal last year. But I’m back at it again, hoping to get through the pile of books I’ve accumulated in the last couple of years. More time reading is one of my New Year’s resolutions.

35565694I’ve loved gymnastics as long as I can remember. Shannon Miller was my first favorite gymnast. Then Carly Patterson. Then Shawn Johnson. Then Aly Raisman.

I first remember seeing Aly Raisman at the 2012 National Championships. All the commentators were talking about Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas. I kept yelling at the TV – “What about Aly? She’s really good.” Same thing at the Olympic Trials. And when Aly got the second all-around spot over Jordyn at the 2012 Olympics, no one seemed to care that Aly was better; it was all about how Jordyn had been two-per-countried (which is rightfully a dumb thing that should be gotten rid of). All this to say, Aly’s my girl and I think she’s amazing.

When she announced she was going to write a book a year after the 2016 Games, I was psyched to read it. She’s the one that everyone counted out, but depended on when it mattered. The workhorse. I wanted to hear what it felt like to be in that position. Then she revealed she was one of Larry Nassar’s victims, and my heart broke for her. The book isn’t about that, but she is very clear that what happened was awful, it could happen to anyone, and it needs to be stopped.

Her treatment by USA Gymnastics was appalling in many instances (listen to the GymCastic review for most of them!) and I’m happy to see that she’s not be cowed to be quiet. But there are times when she tells stories that are so demeaning or ridiculous, but you can tell she doesn’t get that it was wrong – just that’s how it was, which breaks my heart.

The book is definitely aimed at young gymnasts who want to read about their hero, so it’s not a challenging read, but it’s still interesting. I can’t wait to see what Aly does next!

My Summer Olympics Love Affair

Confession: I’m an Olympics nut. For 3 weeks every four years, I am glued to my television, soaking in the sports, athletes, medals and anthems.

I love the pageantry. I love the sportsmanship and the pride of the athletes in representing their countries. I love watching athletes from the previous Olympics return for repeats or redemption. I love finding new athletes to love and loathe. I love watching sports I’d never seek out at any other time, becoming obsessed with them and developing (uninformed but passionate) opinions about them. Today, I got up at 5:30a to watch the women’s gymnastics preliminaries online before watching rowing, beach volleyball, road racing and tennis on my DVR. But the best part of the Summer Games for me is how they are a touch point in my life, every four years. When the Games come around again, I think about what I was doing four years earlier, seeing how life has changed, moved forward (or not).

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“Yes — happiness wouldn’t be happiness without a violin-playing goat.”

This morning, I really started to feel the wear of the breakneck pace I’d set for myself in creating this trip’s itinerary. It took me a little longer than I wanted, but Katia and I were able to make the 0830 train to Kings Cross as planned. Katia was once again going to work at the British Library while I ventured off, with plans to meet up in Notting Hill later in the afternoon. I dashed off to the Underground when the train pulled in at 0930, grabbing the Victoria line to Victoria station. I transferred to the District line, which luckily was running smoothly, despite previous troubles, to Westminster Station.

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