R.I.P. Denis Ten

2017 Shanghai Trophy

Horrifying news from Kazakhstan that ground-breaking figure skater Denis Ten, a world silver medallist and Olympic bronze medallist (both firsts for his country) has been murdered by two men trying to steal his car’s mirrors.

Ten was only twenty-five, and competed at the Pyeongchang Games this year.

Happy Birthday to an Icon

Today is Oksana Chusovitina’s birthday. She is now forty-three.

In a world where female athletes rarely get the attention they deserve, I want to mention this seven-time Olympic gymnastics star who also happens to be the mother of an adult son.

Chusovitina was:

* Born in the Soviet Union (Uzbekistan), and is quite possibly the last active Soviet-trained athlete in the world.

* She won her first World Championship titles for the USSR in *1991*, and Olympic gold the next year competing for the CIS.

* Surviving the breakup of the Soviet Union with her career intact (when many others lost funding and coaches), she competed for Uzbekistan at the 1996 Olympics, got married in 1997, and had a son in 1999.

* Immediately after having her child, she competed at the 2000 Olympics. And we’re talking gymnastics here: the hardest sport in the world.

* She won World silver in 2001, and then became World Champion again in 2003 – twelve years after her first win.

* Chusovitina’s son had major medical issues, and the family moved to Germany to access treatment.

* While competing for Germany, Chusovitina won Olympic silver in 2008 – sixteen years after winning her first Olympic medal.

* Since then, she has continued to compete, and compete, even though she is now forty-three and in such a physically demanding sport. She has also worked as a coach.

* She was supposed to retire after the 2012 Olympic vault final (where only the top eight gymnasts qualify – and she made it), but she turned up again at the 2016 Games.

Every gymnnastics generation has their “It Girl” the media goes crazy about when the Olympics come around, but if we’re talking about the greatest ever, my vote goes to Oksana.

It’s okay to not win!

Winter Olympic Gold Silver Bronze Medals Pyeongchang Korea 2018

Partially because of the recent Winter Olympics, and partially because I’m just interested in it, I’ve recently read quite a few books about Olympic athletes. Some have been young adult books, some new adult, and some very adult. They’ve been about figure skating, snowboarding, swimming…

One thing they all have in common: every character who wants one ends up winning an Olympic gold medal.

Now, readers might see this as the only acceptable end to a book about an aspiring Olympian, but I beg to differ. In fact, I find the gold at the end of many of these books eyeroll-inducing.

I know most authors have no experience with an elite discipline, be it sport of dance or whatever. Nobody – not even the most talented person in history – goes into something ever expecting to make it anywhere near the top. Hoping, yes. Expecting, no.

To be an Olympic champion, all the stars – and then some – have to align. An athlete maybe won’t peak at the right time. They might get injured. Something well beyond their control might mean they miss out.

Many of the world’s best athletes – people who have been world champion multiple times – never win Olympic gold. Many don’t win an Olympic medal of any colour. Some never even make it to the Olympics. I would rather read about a hero or heroine who overcomes struggles in the book and finishes happy with Olympic silver or bronze than to read these impossible fairy tales coming true.

This is especially the case in a romance, when reading about a heroine ending up with gold, multi-million dollar endorsements, AND the perfect guy often reads more like a sixth-grader’s fan fiction fantasy than a book set in the real world.

Here are some real-life stories:

1. US gymnast Shawn Johnson arrived at the 2008 Olympics as the reigning world champion in the all-around, floor, and team events, and was the favourite to bring home a bagful of gold medals. The pressure on her was enormous.

However: she won silver in every event she was expected to take gold in. At only sixteen the media wrote story after story about how she’d failed her big test.

She pulled herself back together, and then – in the very last event on the very last day – surprised everyone by becoming an unlikely champion on the balance beam.

2. Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko came into the 1998 Olympics as the world champion from three of the previous four years.

However: Secretly sick, injured, and unable to take painkillers because of drug testing, he ended up in second.

3. US figure skater Michelle Kwan won eight world medals – five gold – and is considered one of the best skaters in history.

However: she managed silver in her first Olympics, bronze in her second, and then got injured at the third and didn’t make it onto the ice.

4. Ukrainian gymnast Oksana Omelianchik, competing for the USSR, is considered one of the best in history, and her floor routine is still famous. She is a three-time world champion.

However: she went through a growth spurt, lost some of her technique, and by the time the Olympics came round she was only a reserve and was left off the team.

^^^^^^^^^

For me, these are better stories.

These are amazing athletes with amazing achievements, but their stories are much more interesting and believable. I don’t want to read a book in any genre where everyone is perfect and gets everything. And it seems that authors are frightened to write a book about sport where everything doesn’t turn out perfectly in the end.

I wish they would take a chance.

Yay, Canada!

Olympic Ice Dance Champions 2018 Tessa Virtue Scott Moir Pyeongchang Korea Canada

Sorry to everyone who comes here for the book reviews! I promise I’m back to regular stuff tomorrow.

However, how can I not have a little celebration for Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for their incredible (third!) Olympic gold medal win only minutes ago?

Olympic Ice Dance Champions 2018 Tessa Virtue Scott Moir Pyeongchang Korea Canada.

I want to shoot Australian TV executives, who this year have decided to show all the skating on a three-hour delay. However, at least I’m not going to have a breakdown watching it as it happens. I  follow the live scores, and then watch on television, content knowing the results before I see them.

Second Sport Update!

Jarryd Hughes

I am sure most countries behave like this. In fact, I’ve been in a number of different countries during an Olympic Games, and know they do.

However. Australia picked two male athletes to turn into “superstars”, and nobody else on our Olympic Team mattered. One snowboarder was featured nonstop for MONTHS before these Games, but he did not win a medal in his event today.

A *different* Australian just won the silver medal in Snowboard Cross, but he wasn’t the “right” winner. Even as I type this, they’re interviewing the guy they picked to win a medal, even though he crashed.

This is our third medal, and second silver so far – not bad for a beach country not good at the snow stuff!

So. Here’s to Jarryd Hughes!

More Olympic Stuff

Ukrainian Aljona Savchenko and Frernch Bruno Massot of Germany won gold. Pairs Figure Skating Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Korea 2018

Sorry, but I need to interrupt the book posts again.

Mid-thirties Ukrainian pairs skater Aljona Savchenko – who had to move to Germany to find a partner to skate with – just won gold!

Now, this is great for many reasons, such as the fact she has been around forever, had to move to another country to find a partner…

However… What is amazing is that she is SO much older than your average figure skater. I hear from my parents’ generation that you have to be in your early twenties to achieve anything athletic, but my generation has shown them they are 100% wrong!

Even better, she wasn’t the only over-thirty skater on figure skating medal podium today.

In figure skating events you will find almost nobody is skating for the country they’re actually from. E.g. the Israeli singles ladies skater is American. The Korean male pairs skater is a New Zealander. Savchenko’s skating partner is French, not German!

Australia bizarrely now has the junior world champions in pairs skating, and the female skater is from Russia!

Go Canada!

Tessa Virtue Scott Moir Team Event Ice Dance Figure Skating Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 12th February 2018

Breaking up my regular book coverage to say: I am SO happy about Canada winning the gold in the weird new (as of 2014) team figure skating event at the Olympics. SO well-earned.

I do think this whole team thing is a tad ridiculous, and it leads to figure skating overkill before the real events even happen, but I am very glad to see both Canada and the US on the medal podium.

I am equally frustrated Russia was allowed into this event. How can a country that is allegedly banned from the Olympics this year be fielding a team for their country?!

How much Kremlin money reached IOC hands in order for this to be allowed to happen? Ugh.

The best thing about the Olympics being in Korea (other than that I used to live there, and am having a sort of “reverse homesickness” for the country), is that we’re basically in the same time zone, so I can watch live events at sane times!

Now, if only the Australian – and likely other English-speaking – commentators could stop mispronouncing place names…

The Week: 5th – 11th February

Friday sunset in Canberra

Australian Parliament all wrapped up in scaffolding for refurbishment yesterday afternoon.

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

Kim Yuna lighting the Olympic torch.

Misty – and the end she didn’t deserve

Blind Calico Cat Canberra Australia 26th May 2017 Sonya Heaney Cute 1

We’re not a country??

Flags across the country have been lowered to honour one of Australia's former governors-general, Sir Ninian Stephen, who died on October 29. Parliament House Canberra 8th November 2017

My review of The Marquess Tames His Bride by Annie Burrows

The Marquess Tames His Bride (Brides for Bachelors) by Annie Burrows

My review of Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare for Children Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Must monsters always be male?

Cinderella Disney.

Cover Love

Carrying the Gentleman's Secret by Helen Dickson