Book Review: Chalked Up

by Kilo on September 13, 2011


Chalked up by Jennifer Sey

The full title of the book is Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics’ Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams.

If you’ve ever watched gymnastics during the Olympics and wondered “How on earth does someone learn to do this stuff? How do you even practice?” Chalked Up is the book for you. Author Jennifer Sey was the 1986 National Gymnastics Champion in America and she started her training very early in life.

I’m not going to give too much away. This was a book I went into fairly blind–it just happened to show up on my desk at work and I grabbed it.

This was the extent of my knowledge of gymnastics training and preparation: “They must practice a lot!” and “Wow, those girls are all really short.”

I won’t say that Chalked is a really enjoyable read, but it is a fascinating look at a world I was a stranger in. And the only reason it’s not enjoyable is because of the pressure on the girls to succeed. On every page, at least once, I thought I can’t believe how young they all are to be taking this all so seriously.

I think the competitive instinct is natural. I think that someone who can think of nothing but competing in the Olympics at the age of 7 is unusual. And that’s probably why there are so few elite athletes. Something else makes them (or their parents) tick, or they’re part of a sports machine where it’s not entirely up to them.

Anyway: highly recommended.




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