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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2001
At long last, an up close and personal look at USA elite swimmers. Mr. Mullen tells an engrossing tale of the odyssey of four young men striving for berths on the Olympic team, Australia 2000. Most Americans are unaware of the depth, strength and long tradition of the USA's predominance in Olympic swimming. US teams are so strong that unfortunately, we have to leave at home as many deserving finalists as those who go. Only two representatives of each individual swimming event are allowed for each country. (It used to be three, but the powers that be were tired of the US taking gold, silver and bronze in every event.)
The lead actors are All-American Tom Wilkens, multi-faceted Kurt Grote and everyone's dream or nightmare of a coach, Dick Jochums. Supporting roles showcase super controlled Dod Wales, son of an acclaimed Olympic swimmer, and burn out Tate Blahnik who has it all, but is tired to death of competitive swimming. The author follows these magical four for eighteen months culminating in the 2000 Olympics. The front cover calls these four "ordinary men." I strongly disagree; they are unique and extraordinary athletes. Tom Wilkens, in particular, grabbed my attention, affection, and awe.
This book is a page-turner; I read it in one sitting. It is not just for swimming aficionados, but also for anyone who likes to read about what it takes to become a champion and the inevitable burdens on the strength and psyche of the contenders. A glossary of terms would have been helpful, but the author is masterful in his explanations. As a parent of a former age group swimmer, I can attest that this is no puff piece; Mr. Mullen tells it like it is.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2001
This book is a compelling and engrossing character study of a group of super-achieving athletes with congruent but sometimes competing aspirations. It has an excellent narrative drive that made it a real page-turner, and perhaps because it pulls no punches in its treatment of its focal characters, the reader is left with a deep appreciation for the complex and usually (but not always) admirable qualties of elite athletes. Swimmers tend to be smart, and this is an intelligent treatment of both swimming and competition in general: this book is to the standard sports expose as collegiate swimmers' GPAs are to the GPAs of (pick your contact sport) players. Although I read this on the recommendation of a friend who is a serious swimmer, I feel it deserves an audience far beyond the competitive swimming world, for which I'm sure it will be required reading.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2001
I am not a swimmer, so I was amazed to find myself hooked by Gold in the Water from the first lines on Page One. This incredible book has everything you will ever want in a sports tale--drama, rivalry, flawed character, human emotion, and high stakes. The characters themselves were so real you feel like you're their teammates. I've never read a book that comes remotely close to chronicling so much intimate, personal details about world-class athletes. Surprise (not): Deep down, they're like everyone else. I can't remember the last time a book could make my andrenaline race AND make me cry (more than once). The final pages were full of surprises. That made the unexpected ending all the more triumphant. Gold in the Water sets the standard for describing the pure beauty of athletes chasing an impossible dream with all their hearts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2002
Mullen is magnificent! He took me where no other writer has even previously done. He made it personal and made it as emotional as all hell! Congrats.
As an avid fan of phyiscal sports and rarely a fan of soft individual type sports, such as swimming, tennis, and dancing I was entralled with the dedication and the courage of these immortal athletes. Time and time again Mullen sent CHILLS down my back!!
Have you ever found your self throwing fake punches while watching Boxing on ESPN or while watching the Rocky movies ?
Throughout the 300 some odd pages I was throwing jabs and crosses into my pillow because of the extreme adreline rush of Kurt's and Tom's swims, and throwing upper-cuts towards the accusations of Dara's enhanced swims.
Gold in the Water is GOLDEN and it often left me looking at the ceiling and questioning whether I had ever really pushed myself to greatness...or if I ever could. Keep them coming PH!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2002
I was attracted to this book because my son is a competitive swimmer. He's not a voracious reader, but he zipped through Gold in the Water in a few days. Then he started passing it around his swim team. Last month, I read it. Mullen brings together a combination of understanding of the sport, empathy for athletes and coaches and a journalist's attention to truth and detail in putting together this book. The story of these athletes preparing for a year and a half for the two minute-event that will decide whether on not they make the Olympic team has all the emotion, conflict and suspense of a great novel. This is the best sports book I have read since Boys of Summer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2002
"Seabiscuit" is not about a horse. It is about the people around the horse and their competitive desires, ambitions, and very interesting lives. In exactly the same way, "Gold in the Water" is not just about the sport of swimming. It is about a handful of compelling people living the Olympic Dream and trying to learn the elusive secrets of being great.
Quite simply, I could not put this book down the first time I read it. After a second reading, I believe this is the best true-life sports drama I've ever read. The message is as strong as Lance Armstrong's "It's not about the Bike", and the writing is far better.
Personally, I think businesses could benefit from the motivation messages. Young people would do well to emulate the strong character of the books subjects, particularly two swimmers who don't even make the Olympics, Kurt Grote and Dod Wales. I thought the coach, Dick Jochums, is too hard and stubborn in places. But he got me to start working out again, so he can't be all bad. This is definitely a book to put on your list.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2002
Most people have no idea what an competitive swimmer has to do to qualify for the olympics. My children have been swimming competitively for 7 years now at local and state events and even to us this book is an eye opener.
I recommend this to anyone who is even remotely interested in swimming as a sport or the olympics as a whole. The general public sits in front of our TV's and watch the olympics and say "wow that swimmer swam really fast". It becomes so much more than that. What makes a swimmer? Is it his natural ability to swim fast or is it the one who trains the hardest swims the fastest. This book clarifies that it is a combination of several factors that carries a person to the olympic dream.
After reading this book I guarantee that all of us will look upon Olympic athletes in a different light. I commend the author and the swimmers of the Santa Ana Swim club for opening up their doors and lives so that the rest of us can get a glimpse of what it is really like to strive for the ultimate goal. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2005
If you are not a swimmer already, you will want to be after completing this book. If you are a swimmer, then you will be thankful that someone has captured the essence of what those elite athletes at the other end of the pool do while you slog it out at 5 AM in the morning.

Mullen does an unbelievable job capturing the unrelenting workouts, the devastating highs, the excruciating lows, and reality of what happens when you stick your neck out there to pursue a dream.

Finally, as a competitive swimmer, Mullen is able to capture the awesomeness of these Olympians and at the same time showing that these people are indeed mere mortals. Most of the Olympians that I have seen train and have had the opportunity are much like Tom Wilkens: hard working, determined people who love their sport and are very approachable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
As an athlete and the parent of a swimmer who's "Gold" is making it to the NCAA Championships one day, I believe this book is one of the few that truly captures the highs and lows of the swimming world. P.H. Mullen brought tears to my eyes with his compassionate, yet brutaly realistic retelling of SCA swimmers going for the gold. This story helps you appreciate what happens everyday with every swimmer who truly dedicates themselves to being the best! The emotional and physical sacrifices made by swimmers all over the U.S. are not paralled in very many other sports. This book should be read by every athlete who has a dream!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2001
This book offers a great insight into the "psyche" of an Olympic athlete. It was interesting, informative, and inspirational. Swimmers and non-swimmers would enjoy this book. It was the first time that I felt like I was "inside" the athlete while he was training! It's a motivating book written by someone who has a great knowledge of the making of a champion. All readers will be inspired whether they're training to make Olympic cut-off times or just to push themselves a bit more in aerobics class! I could not put the book down once I started reading it!
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