As a child I remember watching Nadia Comăneci win gold at the 1976 Olympics, achieving the first perfect score of 10 in gymnastics. Since I had trouble completing a row of somersaults, and was pathetic on the balance beam, I knew that my future in gymnastics would be short-lived. Nadia’s performance did inspire me to dream big in other areas, and work hard.
Reading the book Gold by Chris Cleave reminded me once again of the power of Olympic heroes. The exciting twist in this book is that we see behind the distracting glint of the medals, to the human foibles of the athletes. Enter Zoe, an Olympic champion in track cycling, who is fiercely dedicated to winning but has little luck cultivating human relationships. Her random encounters with men leave her constantly disappointed. In an early scene she looks up Paolo, her latest boyfriend, on Facebook only to read his negative comments and view his half-naked photos flaunting her Olympic gold medals. The media spotlight is a tough burden to bear.
Her fiercest rival Kate struggles to visualize gold, coping with training at an elite level and mothering an ill child. Chris Cleave is masterful at weaving back and forth through time giving us glimpses of what it takes to form a champion – between genetics, environment, coaching, self-confidence, a proper support network, and sheer determination.
This book is a must for anyone who loves cycling. The race sequences are riveting. It is inspiring to gain insight into a world where athletes regularly push through the barriers of physical and emotional pain in the hope of competing at an international level. I can almost guarantee you’ll want to hop on your bike for a 50km ride.
The subplot involving Sophie, the daughter of Kate and Jack, is touching and at times heartbreaking. Cleave really captures the precocious nature of this 8 year old coping with leukemia. She escapes into an imaginary Star Wars world, which keeps the mood upbeat. A secret involving Sophie makes for an interesting twist midway through the novel…and raises an interesting question. What would you sacrifice for the people you love?
Place a hold on this bestseller today!