How to be an Olympian by Harry Reardon

I was drawn to this book as I am a huge fan of the Olympics, and well athletics in general. When I was in primary school and I saw the Olympics for the first time (2000 Sydney), I had dreams myself of becoming an Olympic athlete. Okay, I was pretty good for my age at distance running, but it quickly became abundantly clear that I did not have the determination nor the ability to succeed at such a high level. However, it instilled in me a life-long love and respect for the Olympics and the athletes which compete in them.


Hannah Dines and Jess Leyden are two perfectly normal, brilliant women. One, a world record-holding athlete and a Paralympian on the trike. The other, a multiple age-group world champion and one of the most promising rowers Great Britain has to offer.

In the five years (yes, that’s right) between Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, they will face cancer scares, crushing defeats, and the biggest global health crisis in a century. They will get dropped, they will get injured, and they will win medals. They will spend the best years of their lives knowing that at any moment, it could all come crashing down. That all the training, all the sacrifice could be in vain, wasted effort as a pandemic raged. That maybe these could be the years that will shape their finest hour – or that maybe, after everything that they’ve been through, it could all still be snatched away at the last… 

My thoughts:

This is a fascinating and original insight into the parallel and yet differing stories of a Paralympian and an Olympian during possibly the most challenging, strange and unexpected Olympic cycle there has ever been.

This is a book that does not solely focus on the elements we all see on TV – stories of success, hope, happiness and pure human strength. Instead, this book also gives a thought-provoking look into the challenges faced by these incredible women: personal challenges as well as societal and sport-specific challenges.

This has been a book that has been easy to read, interesting and has definitely further deepened my respect for athletes who even dare to dream of competing at this level. I have quite a few memoirs from famous Olympians sitting on my shelf and reading this book has definitely encouraged me to think about picking these up soon! I’d definitely recommend this book to any fans of the Olympics, or those who enjoy informative and engaging reads about real people with surreal talent!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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