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Letters to a Young Gymnast Paperback – November 8, 2011


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Letters to a Young Gymnast + Nadia Comaneci: Perfect 10 + The Fab Five: Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, and the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team: GymnStars Volume 3
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465025056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465025053
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although part of a mentoring series (Letters to a Young Lawyer; Letters to a Young Chef; etc.), this memoir is less about motivating aspiring gymnasts than justifying the author's life choices. Romanian-born Comaneci took the sports world by storm when, at the age of 14, she was the first person in Olympic history to earn a perfect score in gymnastics. At the event she garnered several more medals. When the author recounts her early years with legendary coach Bela Karolyi and details how his intensive training requirements plus her own determination led to her success, the text is engrossing. Comaneci, however, devotes far too much space to discussing the controversies that dogged her career. She refutes the oft-repeated accusation that Karolyi abusively overworked his young gymnasts and further denies that she drank bleach when the Romanian government assigned her to another coach. Although Comaneci's descriptions of her harsh life in Romania (although far easier than most) under dictator Ceausescu are compelling, and her decision to defect in 1989 completely understandable, she does not acknowledge that the man who facilitated her escape, Constantin Panait, was anything other than a personal manager. According to newspaper reports at the time, Panait, married with four children, controlled her life and finances and was responsible for TV bookings where the gymnast appeared overweight and inappropriately dressed. More discussions about the sport and less defensiveness about mostly forgotten gossip would have strengthened this mentoring guide.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Born in 1961 in Onesti, Romania, Nadia Comaneci made sports history during the 1976 Olympic Games by scoring the first perfect “10.00” in a gymnastics competition. Since defecting to the United States in 1989, she is an international spokesman for her sport as well as numerous charities. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma, with her husband, American gymnast Bart Conner.

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Customer Reviews

It is a clear, easy to read and motivating book.
Fernanda
The style and language of the book made it seem like Nadia was sharing her story with ME, and I loved the personal stories and insights.
Linda
Nadia also showed us her love of gymnastics, and give us a better perpestive of the sports and her coach.
"mailoon"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Fippy on September 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Since I was a gymnast for many, many years, I have read quite a few gymnastics books, but none had impressed me too much until I read this one. Perhaps it is because Nadia not only talked about her gymnastics, but also about the conditions and struggles of life in Communist Romania. It is not only a biography, but also historical as well.

The book was very clear and easy to read, so younger gymnastics fans should have no problem getting through it. It was also very interesting (something I truly did not expect) and a page turner. It answered many questions gymnastics fans have had through the years.

Nadia's story is very impressive, and, at times, even heartbreaking. It's hard to believe that, by reading this book, you'll eventually "feel" for probably the most successful gymnast in the history of the sport. Her life wasn't always as glorious as you may think.

I'd suggest gymnastics fans read this book because it's simply very good and very well written, and also very, very interesting. Also, if you're simply interested in learning more about how life was like in a communist country, this book may just be the book for you!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David C. Berry on December 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Do not have the mistaken belief that this book is a simple collection of gymnastic memories for budding gymnasts. Competitive gymnastics, and life, is far more detailed. And Nadia addresses a thousand questions posed to her by generations of fans. Some fans watched Nadia in competition during the 1976 Olympics. Many know of her from stories told them by others. And some only know of her from a 1984 TV movie.
Queries to Nadia have always been more than just, "How do I improve my handstand?" They want to know her experiences, feelings, and thoughts. Or, as Nadia begins her book, "Dear Nadia, Tell me everything..."
The book follows her life chronologically, but each stage brings a different theme. Chapter titles such as "Necessity," "The Disciplined Life," and "Courage?" are not only lessons for little girls, but for everyone, even if the lessons are really just reminders.
Nadia is very detailed in each of the memories she relates. Those looking to find out how she felt then, or feels now won't be disappointed. And she has the passage of time to put everything in perspective.
Her answers to the many questions are surprising. You'll discover that most events in Nadia's life, which we all learned from the various media, are far different than we thought in details and perceptions. I won't give away some of these details, but many are eye openers, some down-to-earth. And a few are reminders that Nadia's a person, and her actions and reactions are human, not superhuman.
With all that you'll learn about her life, you'll find she is still Nadia: The athlete and Olympic champion devoted to her sport; a teen with normal growing up issues that set her back, but rose to be champion again. A young woman held virtually captive by her government. A desperate soul escaping to freedom; creating a new life in a far away land. And finding love, complete with fairy tale wedding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Linda on January 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I sat down this afternoon and read Nadia's book in one sitting! True, it's a relatively small book, but with having two young boys to look after, rarely do I take the time to read so intensely. The style and language of the book made it seem like Nadia was sharing her story with ME, and I loved the personal stories and insights. After all the stories and media rumors, it is fascinating to hear her side of the events that shaped her life, such as her early childhood memories, the 1979 World Championships, her defection to the USA, and her and Bart's courtship and wedding. These were topics that I had heard talked about many times, but even in interviews, Nadia has never gone into the detail that she did in this book.

This book reminded me about all of the reasons why I have admired Nadia for so long and why she remains very dear to my heart, and in the hearts of so many others around the world. I want to thank her for taking the time to write such an honest book, and for sharing her thoughts with her fans. Her gymnastics career has had a big impact on my life, and has always inspired me to do my best in school, in my work and in my relationships.

One last thing: when I first purchased the book, I was disappointed that there were no photos included. Upon reading the book, however, I realize that the book is directed not necessarily at a young audience, but for her fans, many of us who are in our adult years now. While photos would always be welcome, I wouldn't have wanted photos if it meant taking out any parts of the book. Her incredible and inspiring story speaks for itself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leetech on December 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Nadia's book exceeded my expectations with her insightful words of philosophy and colorfully poetic descriptions.

Her autobiographical account, packaged with thought-provoking questions and comments aimed towards her readers, struck several deep chords in my life-pondering mind. There is plenty of food for thought which would particularly hit home for readers who find themselves at a crossroads in their lives. Nadia's experiences, hardships, successes are truly inspiring pieces of her world that many readers could relate to and possibly find light in their own circumstances.

In a way, it was a good thing that there were no pictures included because I could focus more on the intellectual aspect of the story than the visual. At the same time, it would have been a great idea to include a few early photos along with some recent ones of herself, since she does mention that she hopes people will be interested in who she is now and not so much on the little girl she used to be.

As far as gymnastics tips, Nadia gives them in the form of using one's pyschology for greater benefit. She also includes a list for success in life towards the end of the book. Naturally, even I was curious enough to expect, and miss, a bit of flexibility or skill-specific boosting advice from her perspective.

This story is indeed a fantastic motivational tool for others. Those who say otherwise have simply not taken the time or effort to read into what Nadia's story offers or pinpoint the wonderful wisdom she provides.
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