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.

Recommended Winter Sport Read

The Winter Olympics might be finished, but the Paralympics are still to come.

If you’re still looking for a winter sport-themed read, Treacherous Slopes by Terri Reed is about Olympic ski jumping.

It is a Love Inspired Suspense book, which means it is a shortish romantic suspense with a hint of a Christian theme.

I reviewed the book four years ago, when the last Olympics were on. The blurb is beneath the cover.

Treacherous Slopes by Terri Reed

KILLER COMPETITION

A champion ski jumper, Nick Walsh wants one thing: to win the gold for his late brother. Nick has always blamed himself for his family’s tragic loss—and so does everyone else. To complicate things, sweet and shy reporter Julie Frost insists on doing a story about him. But as Nick gets closer to achieving his dream, someone will do anything to stop him. Somehow, Nick must keep Julie from getting too close as they confront a threat that can destroy them both. Julie and Nick are on the verge of discovering the truth about his brother’s death…unless an unknown murderer finds them first.

The Week: 19th – 25th February

^^^^

I have no idea why it keeps starting partway through!

Plenty of Winter Olympics-watching happened this week. The best moment was Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir winning ice dance gold.

R.I.P. to Emma Chambers

Kyiv Ukraine Euromaidan Memorials Sonya Heaney May 2016

This week marked four years since the pro-Russian snipers opened fire on the public in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city. The war rages on, even though I haven’t seen it in the Australian, European, or American news for a long time.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Abramenko won the men's aerials freestyle skiing gold medal to break Belarus' dominance in the event at the Winter Olympics..

Ukraine did win a gold medal in Pyeongchang, however!

My review of Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

Lisa Kleypas News

Hello Stranger (Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Out Soon

The Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors #5) by Sabrina Jeffries

Reread: My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Bombing of London Library

On 23rd February 1944 The London Library came within a few feet of being totally destroyed. Bombed Second World War Two0241_-_The_Art_Room_19440238_-_

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!