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Elite Gymnastics Not All It's 'Chalked Up' to Be

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After breaking her femur in a fall from the uneven bars, Jennifer Sey came back to win the 1986 National Championships. It was a remarkable recovery, but it took a tremendous emotional and physical toll.closemore
After breaking her femur in a fall from the uneven bars, Jennifer Sey came back to win the 1986 National Championships. It was a remarkable recovery, but it took a tremendous emotional and physical toll.

Every four years, viewers at home are awed by the grace, athleticism and artistry of Olympic gymnastics. But Jennifer Sey, the 1986 National Gymnastics Champion, says the road to this high level of achievement is paved with unhealthy perfectionism and pressure.

In her new memoir, Chalked Up, she exposes the merciless coaching and aggressive parenting that can push young athletes far beyond their physical and emotional limits.

"My entire life was plagued by thoughts of subparness," Sey writes. "I never felt good enough. Just one notch shy of perfection, one slot shy of number one."

Sey's memoir chronicles the drastic measures she and her teenage teammates took to maintain their childlike frames. Competing as an adolescent at the highest levels, Sey says it was a race against time "to beat the menacing development of my own body... before puberty and curves and weight made it nearly impossible for me to fly through the air, attempting flips meant for younger, lighter girls."

Copyright NPR 2016.

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