Although the Olympic Games have been a source of various controversies this year, the stories of its athletes and what they must overcome to compete alongside the best have always been inspiring. If you’re looking to celebrate the Olympic Games with stories of some of its greatest and most determined athletes, here is some nonfiction reading you can dive into.
“Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance,” by Simone Biles and Michelle Burford – This is the official autobiography of the record-setting, four-time Olympic gold-winning American gymnast, Simone Biles. With a lot of encouragement and some good humor, she shares how she came to know the world of gymnastics and how she fostered her drive to overcome any obstacle on her way to becoming a world-renowned athlete.
“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” by Daniel James Brown – This unlikely and inspiring story occurs during the Depression years, when nine working-class young Americans beat the odds against them and went on to defeat the elite rowing teams from America’s East Coast and Great Britain, as well as Adolf Hitler’s German rowing team.
“The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory,” by Julie Checkoway – In 1937, a group of impoverished Japanese-American school children were challenged by their teacher to become Olympians. Without access to a pool, they trained instead in irrigation ditches that snaked down through the mountains of Maui. They would go on to shatter American and world swimming records.
“Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics,” by Jeremy Schaap – Against the swastika-filled 1936 Olympics, African-American athlete Jesse Owens put Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy to shame as he won four gold medals. Schaap draws from stories told by Owen’s family and fellow athletes to share this exhilarating piece of sports history.
“Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women,” by Roseanne Montillo – It’s the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, and Betty Robinson arrives at the track to take her starting position. This is only the fourth organized track meet she has ever competed in, and, in a shock to all, she takes gold and becomes that fastest woman in the world at that time. Her story takes a tragic turn after she was severely injured in a plane accident at the top of her career. However, through pure grit and determination, Robinson recovers and takes to the track again and ends up qualifying for the 1936 Olympic team despite all odds.
“For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr,” by Duncan Hamilton – The incredible story of Eric Liddell, an Olympic sprinter whose Christian faith took priority in his life in historic ways. In the 1924 Paris Olympics, Liddell chose to not compete in his event, the 100 meters, due to it falling on a Sunday, and chose instead to honor and keep the Christian Sabbath. His story gets no less incredible, as he later became a missionary and was subsequently forced into a Japanese internment camp while he was working at a school in China. He was known across the camp for the counsel and encouragement he shared with the prisoners, even giving his meals to others. He died from a brain tumor just before the war ended, but his story and influence is still talked about today.
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