It’s another Olympics week here on Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews. Who knew when I picked up Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles (Amazon) from the library a week before the Olympics started, everyone would be talking about Simone, but for different reasons. Edited to add: What are the odds that I’d schedule this post for the night before Simone finally performs at the Tokyo Olympics?
From Amazon: “In Courage to Soar, the official autobiography from four-time Olympic gold-winning and record-setting American gymnast Simone Biles, Simone shares how her faith, family, passion, and perseverance has made her one of the top athletes and gymnasts in the world—and how you too can overcome challenges in your life.
Simone Biles’ entrance into the world of gymnastics may have started on a field trip in her hometown of Spring, Texas, but her God-given talent, along with drive to succeed no matter the obstacle, are what brought her to the national spotlight during the Olympic Games and have catapulted her ever since—including 25 World Championship medals. But there is more to Simone than her accomplishments.
In this book Simone shares:
- how she has relied on her faith and family to stay focused and positive
- the ways she’s continued competing at the highest level and having fun doing what she loves
- a behind-the-scenes looks at gymnastics events, including the Olympics
- the events and challenges that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic team
- Along the way, Simone shares the details of her inspiring personal story—one filled with daily acts of courage that led her, and can lead you, to even the most unlikely of dreams.
Courage to soar is a book you’d expect a 19-year old thrust into the spotlight would be. Clearly ghost-written, and written in a way that’s accessible to younger readers, Simone presents her story as an inspirational tale. How could it be anything else? A girl whose drug-addicted mother couldn’t care for her so her grandparents stepped up and took her and her sister in.
There’s a matter-of-fact telling of her early years, which involved foster care until her grandparents took her in, and she refers to the woman that gave birth to her as Shannon, and her grandparents as her parents. It’s her way of embracing the fact that the woman who gave birth to her was not her real mother. She mentions that she is occasionally in touch with her birth mom, but doesn’t dwell on the past.
As far as gymnasts go, Simone got off to a late start, but quickly proved that she was something special. When it became clear that she was a potential future Olympian, her parents knew she was outgrowing the gym where she practiced, so they decided to go into the gym-building business. Her mom had been managing 14 nursing homes, but sold them and opened up a gym for Simone and other gymnasts. I’ve heard and read many stories talking about the sacrifices parents make for their Olympians, driving for hours every week to bring them to practice, the second jobs they’d have to take to cover the costs, but to build a gym? Incredible.
What’s interesting to note in this book and comparing it to Simone’s current situation at the Tokyo Olympics, there was a time in her teens when her coaches wouldn’t let her perform because she was not mentally ready. She was going through a rebellious streak, and her head was not in the game. “No,” I protested, but my coach’s mind was made up. “Simone, you’re not mentally in the game,” Amy said, “and you’re in danger of badly injuring yourself. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let you do that.” Perhaps this experience is something Simone dwelled on when she was having trouble in Tokyo last week. She might have been thinking back to this time, when her coaches put her mental as well as physical health first instead of the almighty medal.
One thing I didn’t know, because I’ve never heard Simone address it in interviews, is that she’s Catholic like me. She mentions her reliance on her faith, and there’s a moving part on her Confirmation. But she doesn’t get preachy about her faith, either. It’s simply matter-of-fact. I thought that was cool.
Ultimately, this book is about overcoming obstacles, relying on hard work, facing outside pressure, perseverance, and a positive mental attitude to achieve your goals. It’s been a pleasure watching a young woman who has four gymnastics moves named after her. Simone’s current struggles are public because she’s one of the faces of Team USA’s Tokyo Olympics, and hopefully the many younger kids who looked up to her for being the greatest gymnast the sports has ever seen also now realize she has a frail and human side to her, that she struggles, too. That should make her an inspiration to us all.
This is the 13th book I’ve read as part of the 2021 Library Love Reading Challenge.
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