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A life lived without fear is a life half lived...
on 27 February 2012
Chrissie Wellington's book is a fascinating read. I write that with some surprise, because I have read many sports stars' autobiographies and I thought hers would be written in the same pattern: readable, quite interesting, but hardly surprising and certainly not compelling - one dimensional, perhaps.
Wellington's book is much better than that - I learnt things about psychology, about coaching, about charity and about people - all of which were really, really interesting. Of course, her triathlon story is amazing and achievements unparalleled, but these were thrown into sharp relief by her emotional fragility and her rather accident-prone nature (clearly her "muppet" nickname is well deserved). She is at her most assured when laying out her academic credentials and achievements in the international development field - her intelligence and ability to look behind political posturing come shining through. Her first hand experience with the benefits and failures of international aid efforts sends powerful messages to those of us who would appease our consciences with the occasional donation to some apparently worthy overseas cause.
She is less comfortable in discussing her sporting career, where her surprise, almost disbelief, at her achievements, coupled with her insight into the driving forces underpinning athletes and their coaches, make for some uneasy reading. The contrasts between the "healthy" aspects of being a physically fit athlete, and the mentally unstable, tangled and decidedly murky, motivating forces and athlete-coach relationships are striking. She is clearly more fortunate than many athletes, as her life, family relationships and friendships formed before her career as a sports professional have kept her feet well and truly on the ground.
The book is fast paced, a little like the apparent whirlwind of her life, but laced through with humour and self-deprecation. The attention to detail in the book clearly reflects her attitude to many other aspects of her life - some may find the sections on triathlon training tedious, although to a triathlete her training sessions are there to be marvelled over, emulated and discussed endlessly. In summary, this is a compelling book written about only half a life so far, but it certainly has not been a life lived without fear. I, for one, certainly look forward to the next instalment.