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Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061351466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061351464
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sey writes of her career in internationally competitive gymnastics, which culminated when she won the 1986 U.S. national championship at age 17. From the start Sey was an underdog, ever the second-best athlete on the team hoping to prove herself with tenacity and toughness. She endured numerous injuries—including a broken femur, which could have ended her career—as well as an eating disorder, depression, isolation and tremendous strain on her family. With each new sacrifice that her parents and brother made to support her, the stakes crept higher, inuring them all to gymnastics' inherent physical and psychological trauma. After claiming the U.S. title, Sey was shell-shocked and exhausted, suddenly robbed of her lifelong motivation. I'd always been a fighter, a come-from-behind girl. Now that I was on top, the battle would be unwinnable. The memoir's poignant glimpses at Sey's adult struggle to reckon with her past are regrettably sparse, and her prose occasionally lapses into wordiness, but overall, she has written a courageous story befitting a comeback kid—a timely release for the 2008 Olympics. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sey was the 1986 U.S. national gymnastics champion, but since gymnastics is a sport that only captures the fancy of the general populace during Olympic years, she is relatively unknown outside the sport’s inner circle. Joan Ryan exposed many of female gymnastics’ abuses in her classic Little Girls in Pretty Boxes (1996), but Sey adds to that sad story (her lengthy subtitle conveys much of the substance of her years as an elite gymnast). She acknowledges that her obsessively competitive personality may have simply found a venue in which to flourish, but the demands placed upon her by club coaches and parents surely exacerbated the situation. Sey’s parents moved so she could train with the right coaches, then virtually ignored their younger son and nearly lost their marriage along the way. Through it all, Sey suffered an adolescence of eating disorders, endured numerous broken bones, and viewed every element of her life through the distorting prism of competition. It’s a fascinating and disturbing book and certainly the young year’s front-runner for most literate and painfully honest sports autobiography. --Wes Lukowsky

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Customer Reviews

This was a fantastic book, very well written and very honest.
T. Carrier
Where some may say she is mean spirited and finger pointing, I think that Jen Sey told HER story in her own words.
Campbell
For anyone who loves or follows gymnastics, this is a must read!
ashskelton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 92 people found the following review helpful By K.K. Turner on May 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Like Jenn and Betty who have already posted their reviews, I was a Parkette with Jen Sey from 1985-1987. Before Jenn and I moved in with J. Sey, we lived with some other girls in Jessica's (who has also posted) parent's house (who took in boarders living away from home). Jessica was already in college by the time I got there in 1985.

I can tell you from first hand experience that what we ate was monitered and sometimes reported to the Strausses. The only thing we were allowed to have without asking was water. It was just the way it was and we all accepted it because like Jen, we all wanted to be champions. The things that Jessica claims are outright lies happened after she had left. She claims to have talked to 20 girls who trained with us during that time but she certainly hasn't talked to me (or Jen, Tracy, Betty, etc).

In her review and her comments on NPR (which seemed pretty scripted to me), Jessica gets very caught up on specific examples Jen gives (like Mr. Strauss throwing a chair "AT" a gymnast). I mean, what are you saying Jess, that he did throw a chair, but just in her general direction...so it wasn't that big of a deal? Also, the announcement over the loudspeaker about a young gymnast's 2 lb weight gain and telling her she's going to look like her obese mother if she wasn't careful. Come on...those of us who were there remember how much grief she used to get about her parents size.

What I don't get, as one reviewer said above, is why all the outrage? This is Jen's story. Many of us lived it right along side with her (although it's fascinating how much we actually isloated ourselves from each other during that time...even though we were all living together and going through the same stuff).
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kris Bagiu on June 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was a gymnast of the 1980s at SCATS in Huntington Beach, CA (then west coast rivals of Parkettes), under the direction of Don Peters. As Class I gymnasts (today's Level 10s) our workouts were combined with the confirmed Elite level athletes, many who were national team members with Jennifer. I was eager to read her book because she was someone I hadn't met but had heard about through the slumber party stories and post-meet adventure chatter at the gym.

It wasn't the tell-all I was expecting, it felt very much like my own story minus the part where I win the 1986 National Championships. I was embarrassed to read her account of Peters giving the "fat speech" before the World Championships-- I thought those speeches were reserved for the members of our private gym where we had daily weight checks. We protected our bulemic and anorexic girls, covered weight gains with really good stories. I even took the fall for one high ranking gymnast's binge and purge weekend when food went missing, rather than out her. I was shocked to read about the chair being thrown at a gymnast-- I thought only our coaches threw tantrums and objects. It felt "good" to hear that I wasn't the only one who had foul language directed at me in the gym. I have a strange sense of peace knowing that we weren't alone. I hear thanks to my injuries I was one of the most expensive gymnasts at SCATS in my time. And it's thanks to those injuries I burned out before I could earn even a bottom of the barrel college scholarship. Where's my: I did my best in gymnastics for 10 years and all I got was a rib removed, a broken foot, a reconstructed ankle, and a broken wrist!" t-shirt?

To the people taking issue with Jennifer's account I say if your experience was different, it was just that: different.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Thompson on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I didn't get into gymnastics until 1996, so I was unfamiliar with Jennifer Sey until I read this book. After reading it, however, I felt like I could really empathize with her, as well as her family and teammates (it was harder to empathize with the coaches, I admit). On the surface, it may seem like this book is a scandalous expose, and I have no doubt that many people will read it as such. But to me, it was a coming-of-age story about a girl who got swept up in a subculture that, unfortunately, tends to lead to disordered thinking about pressure, body image, injury, and "normal" life.

Jennifer Sey does a great job in this book of explaining all the factors that led to her success in gymnastics, as well as her ultimate downfall -- the need for achievement, need to please, competitiveness, and perfectionism. She's fair when it comes to explaining her parents' or coaches' roles, while at the same time taking responsibility for what was her dream.

For me, this was an incredibly thought-provoking book. Not only is it an interesting subject, but the prose is fluid and powerful, helping the reader get into the mindset of an elite gymnast who is training on a broken ankle, competing on the world stage, and lost in a lonely world where being a gymnast is her only identity.

This book is about gymnastics on the surface, but really it has a lot more depth. It's about a relationship of a daughter with her mother, and the sacrifices a parent will make for her child's dream -- even long after the daughter stops wanting it. It's about a child's need to find something that defines her, even if it swallows her whole. It's about the choices we must make when something that we're good at or used to enjoy stops being fun, or stops being a place where we can shine.
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