The Olympics are well under way in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and, I don’t know about you, but every time the Games roll around, I can’t help but watch them. There’s just something special about all of the best athletes from around the world coming together and doing their best to take home gold for their countries.
Whether it’s the Summer or Winter Games, I often find myself watching the competitions unfold for much longer than I ever planned to. And so, in keeping with this infectious Olympic spirit, here are three must-read books written by some of history’s best Olympians. Their stories are inspirational, to say the least, and you’ll want to add these titles to your ‘Must Read’ list.
Muhammad Ali In His Own Words – Muhammad Ali
Of course The Greatest tops this list. The world-renowned boxer and activist who took home gold in the Light Heavyweight category at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome (he was just 18 at the time) is one of history’s best-known and most respected athletes. Through this audiobook, which compiles numerous archive interviews with Ali taped between 1965 and 1989, you’ll learn more about the legendary boxer, as told in his own words.
As the audiobook’s official description reads, In His Own Words features Ali “answering questions about his impending retirement and rumors that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.” What’s more, “in the course of these appearances, he also discusses his fighting career, his frank views on religion and society, his vision of a separate black-only American state and his lack of formal education.”
Winning Balance – Shawn Johnson
Gymnast Shawn Johnson was 16 years old when she took home a gold medal for the balance beam and silver medals for the team, individual all-around and floor competitions at the 2008 Beijing Games. That’s right: four medals. In addition to her Olympic career, she’s also won three gold medals at the World Championships, five gold medals at the Pan American Games, one gold at the American Cup, four gold at the Pacific Rim Championships and five gold at the Visa Championships. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that she managed to squeeze all of these accomplishments (as well as many more) in before officially retiring in 2012.
Winning Balance highlights the “loss of the major gymnastics prize everyone expected her to win in Beijing, the all-around Olympic gold medal, which was the loss of a dream she’d worked for since childhood. Later, she suffered a staggering injury in a skiing accident that forced her life to a halt and made her rethink what was really important… This is the amazing true journey of how the young woman who won an Olympic gold medal on the balance beam became even more balanced.”
Running For My Life – Lopez Lomong
The story of track and field star Lopez Lomong is truly inspiring, and verging on the unbelievable. As a boy growing up during the Sudanese Civil War, Lomong could never have imaged that he would go on to become a Nike-sponsored athlete competing as part of the US Olympic Team. Lomong moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. In addition to competing in the 1500 meter event, he was also the flag bearer for the United States during the 2008 Olympics — amazing.
“Running for My Life is not a story about Africa or track and field athletics,” reads the book’s synopsis. “It is about outrunning the devil and achieving the impossible faith, diligence, and the desire to give back. It is the American dream come true and a stark reminder that saving one can help to save thousands more.”