Stories of determination, hard work, breaking societal norms, and attaining greatness, sports memoirs are not just about accomplishments in individual games. Instead, they are inspirational works that showcase a more intimate side of athletes, their dreams, aspirations, and personal dilemmas through which they have risen to make a name for themselves globally. Here are four popular sports memoirs that give us an insight, beyond performances in competitions, into the lives and minds of extraordinary sportsmen and women.
Nadia Comăneci became a household name when she scored a perfect 10.00, at the age of 14, in gymnastics at the 1976 Olympics. Since then, she has been an icon in the sport. Letters to a Young Gymnast is her life story of growing up in the tiny town of Onesti, Romania, being discovered by her equally famous coach Bela Karolyi, and her strict training that made her the best. Typically, sports memoirs end with the athlete's most significant achievement. For Nadia, winning the Olympic medal was only the beginning as she later took the life-threatening move to defect from communist Romania and move to the USA in 1989. The book speaks of Nadia's innermost thoughts and fears and shines a spotlight on an inspirational figure, someone who not only faced hardships in her sport but continued to be a role-model much after she had retired from it.
Don't Stop Me Now is an uplifting book about running, one that motivates everyone who reads it to get out and get active. Vassos Alexander writes about his obsession with running, how it all started, and then allows the reader to gander inside his mind while he's out and about conquering distances. Short and easy to comprehend chapters make Don't Stop Me Now a pleasant read. The fact that Alexander ends each chapter with famous athletes sharing their fascination and first-time memories of running is the icing on the cake. Don't Stop Me Now is a feel-good book, full of positive energy. That Alexander also shares his mile-by-mile updates of participating in the Outlaw Triathlon and radiates a love for running that is genuinely refreshing, makes this a sports memoir worth reading.
Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch is an unconventional sports memoir, one that is an examination of a fanatic sports fan, and not an athlete. As a life-long football enthusiast, Hornby writes about his undying love towards Arsenal, his favourite football team, from an early age, and the complications in adult life as a result of that. It's a book not so much about football, but the impact it has on people who watch it religiously. It is Hornby's talent in decoding the obsessive nature of football fans and also the intricacies of relationships that he brilliantly manages to capture in other books such as High Fidelity, that makes Fever Pitch an essential book on sports for every fan.
Considered by many as the definitive sports memoir, Open by Andre Agassi is unabashedly honest. Starting from his early years of playing in tennis camps to becoming one of the most despised and loved tennis players ever, Agassi writes with the kind of truthfulness, about his complicated relationship with the game, that one hardly expects from a player of his greatness. Furthermore, he goes beyond mentioning some of his memorable matches and happily throws around gossip about fellow competitors, talks about his authoritarian father Mike Agassi, and early hair loss. There are more personal topics too, mainly how his two marriages, first with Brooke Shields and then with fellow tennis player Steffi Graf, affected his mental and physical state of mind. Admittedly, the book is written by a ghost-writer, JR Moehringer, but is based on hours of recordings by Agassi himself. Moreover, Moehringer does an excellent job with his prose so that, in the end, it is Agassi's voice that comes across as the one speaking to the reader.