The Sports Gene (2013) – a review

MANY told me I MUST read this book. And I finally did get to it.

Very entertaining. And thought provoking.

The_Sports_Gene_Book_Cover_2013Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. …


I wouldn’t count on every factoid being correct. He’s out of date on women’s Artistic Gymnastics, for example.

The 10,000-hour rule is quickly debunked, David Epstein repeatedly pointing out that researcher Anders Ericsson NEVER called it a “rule”. If you train Beam seriously for 10,000 hours, your chances of making it to the Olympic Beam final are still infinitesimal.

There’s no controversy. The best of the best have both very specific genetics and excellent training.

If you don’t have time to read this book, you can get a glimpse by watching David Epstein’s TED Talk from 2014 instead – Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? (15min)

Read reviews on NY Times and The Guardian.

new GYMNASTICS murder mystery

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me: A Novel

How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits–until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers–about her daughter’s fears, her own marriage, and herself–forces Katie to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.


… A group of obsessive parents and their gymnast daughters — you’d be hard pressed to say which group is more high-strung — are at a suburban catering hall, celebrating the success of the 15-year-old Devon Knox, an aborning Nadia Comaneci, who has just completed a regional competition that puts her on track for the Olympics. …

NY Times review

I’ll be downloading the audio version on launch day. Review coming soon.

Thanks Tom.

End of the Perfect 10 – a review

by site editor Rick McCharles

This book was written for the general public. They like it.

But as a coach I still enjoyed it. To revisit the history of the Code was a good catch-up in advance of Rio.


Dvora provides balanced perspective on the pros and cons of eliminating the iconic perfect 10. She interviews many of the important players on the world scene including Hardy Fink, the primary architect of the current Code. Hardy’s not happy with how his original proposal was changed over the years. But feels eventually it will work as intended.

New to me was the revelation that Bela Karolyi did not discover Nadia on the playground. Another part of the great Karolyi myth.

By the end of Perfect 10 I redoubled my conviction that giving up the perfect 10 was a HUGE mistake. We’ve never been much good in marketing the sport. A great salesman like Steve Jobs would conclude that the perfect 10 was our greatest and most valuable asset.

The NCAA women’s program got it right. It’s more important to fund gymnasts through University and keep coaches employed than to exactly rank the very best of the best perfectly.

That said, FIG will never go back to the perfect 10.

But I’d love to see them add something like a “Ranking Score” on top of the current system.

Each quadrennial, on each apparatus, a 10 would be set in advance.

For example on WAG Floor it might be 17.0. If Simone scored 16.5 her Ranking Score would be 16.5 / 17.0 = 9.70.

YES it might be possible to exceed the perfect 10 under this scheme. Fans would love to see a 10.100. 🙂

I bought the audio version. The audio book reader – Elise Arsenault – is poor. Not professional enough to check the correct pronunciation of names in a nonfiction work. She calls Marta Karolyi “Martha“, for example. 😦

related reviews:

• Slate – A Perfect 16.223

• Meghan O’Rourke – Why Extreme Gymnastics Will Dominate the Rio Olympics

• FloGymnastics – Q&A with Dvora Meyers

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

… Expert performance guru Anders Ericsson has made a career studying chess champions, violin virtuosos, star athletes, and memory mavens. Peak condenses three decades of original research …



Former gymnast Jason Shen posted an interview with EricssonBeyond the 10,000 Hour Rule: Talking with Anders Ericsson on How People Reach Expert Performance

Note. If YOU train 10,000 hours don’t expect to qualify for the Olympics. It takes more than that. 🙂

The Little Communist Who Never Smiled

Originally published in French – La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais . New in English just in time for the Olympics.

… Lola Lafon tells the story of Comaneci’s journey from growing up in rural Romania to her eventual defection to the United States in 1989. Adored by young girls in the west and appropriated as a political emblem by the Ceausescu regime, Comaneci’s life was scrutinised wherever she went. Lafon’s novel is a powerful re-imagining of a childhood in the spotlight of history, politics and destiny.

Communist who never smiled

via Gymternet Clan

Golden Era of Gymnastics

New book by By Karen Louise Hollis.

Golden EraThis is a memoir of a young gymnast growing up in England in the 1980s and falling in love with the sport of gymnastics after watching the 1980 Olympics. It tells the story of the sport between 1980 and 1984 and includes exclusive interviews with top gymnasts from that era including Ecaterina Szabo (Romania), Kathy Johnson (USA), Tracee Talavera (USA) and Cheryl Weatherstone (GB).

A Golden Era of Gymnastics 1980-84 ($33.73)

The price of gold. Uncomfortable honesty.

A new exposé from Romania. In Romanian.

Olaru is opening up about her life, her struggle at home, the suicide of the father, her mother’s struggle with alcohol and the hard training sessions which at times involved beatings. …

Maria Olaru is launching her new book this weekend

book cover