Unless you have been living under a rock with wool stuffed in your ears, you MUST have heard the collective roar as the US gymnastics team, The Final Five, easily snagged the team gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Simone Biles (pictured in the center) is our All-Around Champion. She also got 2 additional gold medals on Vault and Floor. She even won the bronze on the Beam despite a costly mistake.
Olympic Medal Count: 4 golds, 1 bronze
Aly Raisman, our team captain (left of Biles), is our All-Around Silver medalist. She also came in second to Biles on Floor, giving her another silver medal to add to her collection.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold, 2 silvers (Rio) + 2 golds, 1 bronze (London) = 3 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze
Laurie Hernandez (left) is our Beam Silver medalist. She is known for her confidence on beam and wonderful personality on floor. Even though she is a strong all-around gymnast, Marta decided against allowing her to attempt to qualify for the All-Around finals in favor of Gabby and Aly.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold, 1 silver
Madison Kocian (right) was specifically selected to the team as a bars specialist. She hails from the same gym that produced Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin and is our Uneven Bars Silver medalist. She was narrowly beaten by Aliya Mustafina of Russia.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold, 1 silver
Gabrielle Douglas (right of Biles) was a strong contender for the all-around finals and qualified third, behind Biles and Raisman. Unfortunately, because of the 2 per country event, she wasn’t allowed into the finals to defend her 2012 All-Around Olympic medal. Nonetheless, her performance in the team final propelled The Final Five to a spectacular finish.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold (Rio) + 2 golds (London) = 3 golds
Ellen and I have been bonding over our mutual adoration of Artistic Gymnastics this week. When Ellen asked me for a list of non-fiction gymnastics books to read, it seemed like it would make the perfect post-Olympic blues post! As always, the images will link you directly to its specific Goodreads page.
Without further ado Ellen (and others), here is your Sierra-approved list.
Non-Fiction Reading Recs
Letters to a Young Gymnast · Nadia Comaneci
Nadia remains a superstar in the sport of gymnastics. She is the first woman to ever score a perfect 10 and was coached by the famous Bela Karolyi. His wife, Marta Karolyi, is our National Team Coordinator for gymnastics and is expected to retire after Rio. Both Bela and Marta have shaped our current gymnastics program to what it is today. This book offers insight into the early training methods used by the Karolyis, life in Romania, and what it was like for Nadia to defect and figure out life in the United States.
Off Balance: A Memoir · Dominique Moceanu
Dominique was a rising star and the youngest member of the 1996 US Olympic team. It was the first time that the US Team won gold at the (non-boycotted) Olympics and was a historic moment. Behind Dominique’s cheery public persona, there were allegations of abuse and neglect against her family and her coach, Bela Karolyi.
Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics’ Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams · Jennifer Sey
Jennifer Sey will not be a familiar name to most of us. That is because even though she was an elite gymnast and a National Champion, she retired from the sport before trying for the 1988 Olympic team. This book documents her struggles to remain in the competitive sport and how many adults in her life put the sport before her health.
The next section of the list will feature non-fiction books I haven’t gotten to read yet. However, I am very much looking forward to doing so.
Feel No Fear: The Power, Passion, and Politics of a Life in Gymnastics · Bela Karolyi
As I’ve only mentioned about a billion times so far, the Karolyis are a legend in the sport of gymnastics. They are known for their toughness as coaches and have produced many top-level Olympic athletes along with shaping USA’s National gymnastics program. This book offers insight to Bela’s own gymnastics career and coaching experiences, as well as his time in Romania.
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters · Joan Ryan
This is meant to be an expose on the sport of elite gymnastics. Originally published in 1995, and republished in 2000, it claims to have wrought important changes in the sport. I look forward to reading it and knowing more on the topic.
Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero · Claudia Ann Miller
This book is written from the perspective of Shannon’s mother and depicts the family life that surrounds a child competing in elite gymnastics. Shannon Miller is the second most-decorated male or female gymnast in American history, behind Simone Biles. Miller is a part of the gold medal-winning Magnificent Seven team at the Atlanta Olympics.
The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score—from Nadia to Now · Dvora Meyers
In an effort to further the sport of gymnastics, the perfect 10 scoring system was replaced in 2005 with an open-ended scoring system. This new system allows gymnasts to be rewarded for attempting more difficult skills. This book intends to explore the evolution of gymnastics within the last few decades and how it may progress in the future. I am dying to get my hands on this one!
I have recently been seeing some fictional books about gymnastics popping up in the blogosphere. I do have a couple of them checked out from my local library, and am looking for more to add to this list.
Tumbling · Caela Carter
You Will Know Me · Megan Abbott
The last section of my list will feature books I have read, but ultimately didn’t care much for. It either was written so poorly that I couldn’t enjoy the content, or it didn’t offer me much in the way of insight into the sport of elite gymnastics.
Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith · Gabrielle Douglas
Anytime I see this picture, I inwardly rage. For the life of me, I CANNOT understand why this became the picture of the Olympics and ultimately, the cover of Gabby’s book. As I’ve been told by other gymnasts, the back leg is supposed to be much closer to her head. There are many other skills that she performs to perfection. Anyway, this book is definitely an inspiring read for children in the sport. However, as an adult, I couldn’t stand the generous usage of ‘lol’. This focuses a lot more on her home life than it does on actual competitive gymnastics. If you’ve followed her on the news, there won’t be any new information for you.
Winning Balance: What I’ve Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams · Shawn Johnson
I really like Shawn Johnson and enjoy her friendship with Nastia. She was heavily favored to win the 2008 Olympics but came in second to Nastia. This reads as more of a self-help book than anything else.
Finding My Shine · Nastia Liukin
Feel free to let me know in the comments below if I have missed any of YOUR favorite gymnastics-related books.