Chalked up

Chalked up

Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams

Book - 2008
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The true story of the 1986 U.S. National Gymnastics champion whose lifelong dream was to compete in the Olympics, until anorexia, injuries, and coaching abuses nearly destroyed her

Fanciful dreams of gold medals and Nadia Comaneci led Jennifer Sey to become a gymnast at the age of six. She was a natural at the sport, and her early success propelled her family to sacrifice everything to help her become, by age eleven, one of America's elite,competing at prestigious events worldwide alongside such future gymnastics' luminaries as Mary Lou Retton.

But as she set her sights higher and higher--the senior national team, the World Championships, the 1988 Olympics--Sey began to change, putting her needs, her health, and her well-being aside in the name of winning. And the adults in her life refused to notice her downward spiral.

In Chalked Up Sey reveals the tarnish behind her gold medals. A powerful portrait of intensity and drive, eating disorders and stage parents, abusive coaches and manipulative businessmen, denial and the seduction of success, it is the story of a young girl whose dreams would become eclipsed by the adults around her. As she recounts her experiences, Sey sheds light on the destructiveness of our winning-is-everything culture where underage and underweight girls are celebrated and on the need for balance in children's lives.

Publisher: New York : William Morrow, 2008
ISBN: 9780061351464
Branch Call Number: Sports & Games 796.44 SEY


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Aug 27, 2020

Well, for starters, it'd be nice if the 'summary' weren't embarrassingly wrong. Sey was NEVER a world champion; she was the US national champion in 1986, NOT 1988. Could someone please fix this completely egregious and inexcusable error?

That said, this is a very worthwhile book. Sey is intelligent, if a bit up herself (which she more or less admits) , and capably dissects the dreadful USGF (usa-gymnastics), the Parkettes club and its maniacal owners Donna and Bill Strauss, and the culture in which she was steeped from the time she first became at all serious about gymnastics. It was (and still is, although some things are changing slowly--i.e. the career-ending ban of Maggie Haney, the prosecution and imprisonment of Nassar, etc) utterly toxic, with all sort of fringe benefits for its gymnasts such as permanent musculo-skeletal injuries, eating disorders which could be lethal and were nearly impossible to overcome, etc. ad infinitum. Very few gymnastics books with the exception of "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" (which was universally pilloried when published and is now admitted to be nearly completely correct in every particular) actually expose the ugliness of what US gymnastics organizations and coaches did to their most brilliantly talented gymnasts for decades on end; this book is worth reading just for the honesty (and Sey is brutally frank about herself as well as everyone else) and the knowledge that Sey's example gives--that it is possible to survive elite gymnastics in the United States.

Mar 02, 2018

Compelling personal account of how the author's and other young gymnasts' inborn competitiveness played into the hands of abusive and evil coaches. The fact that these promising young girls lived away from their parents led to warped attachments. In the end, though the author has successfully transitioned into a high-powered business career and motherhood, certain demons still haunt her. This book was written years before the Nasser molestation cases, but there is mention of suspected sexual exploitation of some girls by coaches.


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