In 1986, seventeen-year-old Jennifer Sey was at the top of the United States elite gymnastics world: hard work, unrelenting determination, and a bit of luck took her to the top of the podium as National Champion. One year later she was a laxative-abusing, self-loathing woman estranged from her family and unable to perform the simplest of gymnastics tricks. What transformed this happy child who loved the adrenaline rush of competition to a broken young woman? Sey is candid that she was never the most talented of gymnasts, but what she did have was a relentless competitive spirit; it was this drive to be the best which made her willingly compete with injuries, drove her to lose weight, align herself with gyms run by harsh coaches, and move away from her family in her quest to become another Nadia or Mary Lou (or my personal favorite, Ecaterina Szabo). Ultimately, as Sey reveals in her memoir Chalked Up, she paid a devastating price both physically and emotionally for competing in a sport she once loved so much.
Want more books on women’s gymnastics? — Try Shawn Johnson’s sunny memoir Winning Balance about her experiences as a gymnast and winner of Dancing with the Stars; Dominique Moceanu’s darker take on gymnastics with an especially candid look at Bela and Marta Karolyi in her memoir Off Balance; and Joan Ryan’s scathing indictment of “women’s” gymnastics Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.