What books did these Olympians pack in their suitcase, plus a few book-related tidbits about those we will be cheering for in the next two weeks!
By Brenda Barrera
Summer reading. What images does this conjure: curling up on a chair overlooking a tranquil lake, checking off the titles on the list your teacher handed out in May, or slipping a paperback best-seller into your carry-on bag as you travel across the country? Your answers are likely shared by some of the women representing Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. I enjoy reading get-to-know-this-athlete-better profiles. I believe it helps to build a fan base when we discover what inspires an athlete or motivates them to muscle through tough competition. It’s also nice to learn about a shared passion like the joy of reading a good book.
Archery – Mackenzie Brown
The recent popularity of this sport can be credited to the books and film, The Hunger Games. Here’s what Brown had to say about the popular series: “I was a fan of THE HUNGER GAMES because I read the books. It’s cool for people to see my name as the girl on fire and also get an interest in archery, even if it is from 'The Hunger Games.' Any interest in archery is good for our sport.”
Cycling – Sarah Hammer (track)
Hammer is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and World Champion in track cycling. In 2003, she quit the sport but returned a year later with renewed purpose and what a mark she has made since then. Her bio says she is an avid reader as does her profile in Classroom Champions.
Favorite things to do off the bike:
1. Take my German Shepherd Dolça for walks
2. Read a good book
3. Go out to nice dinners with my husband
5. Drink coffee
Diving – Kassidy Cook
According to her TeamUSA profile, Cook “enjoys cooking and reading.” She must know the Harry Potter books inside and out because she claims she can recite any of the Harry Potter spells. Hmmm, which ones do you think she would use in Rio . . . rictusempra, orchideous, riddikulus?
Gymnastics – Laurie Hernandez
Get ready for a lot of TV coverage on this 16-year-old gymnastics phenom who still manages to make time for fun by learning dances from YouTube and she also likes to read. THE MAZE RUNNER is her favorite book and she also likes to write poetry.
Judo – Kayla Harrison
Kayla was the first U.S. athlete to win a gold medal in judo at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Can she repeat? In addition to her inspirational accomplishments on the judo mat, Harrison is a survivor of sexual abuse and is writing not one, but two books: a memoir and one with her foundation, Fearless Foundation.
Rowing – Megan Kalmoe (Quadruple Sculls)
Kalmoe is a now a three-time Olympic rower and 2012 bronze medalist who also enjoys reading and writing. Her blog is well-known in the rowing community, and she recently wrote an entry, “Stop Trying to Ruin theOlympics For Us” which has generated quite a few comments. Kalmoe states she wants to travel and begin to write a book when her profession as a rower ends.
Shooting – Kim Rhode (skeet)
Rhode was ten years old when she discovered the sport of skeet shooting and was a world champion at age 13! According to a profile in US Magazine she collects first edition children’s books, and her bookshelves must be pretty darn full – she has about 2,000 books!
Soccer – Carli Lloyd
According to her website, Lloyd’s best soccer moment was winning the 2015 World Cup and scoring a hat trick in the final. I have a feeling her best writing moment will be coming up shortly. Lloyd will be joining other soccer superstars like Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Abby Wambach who have written memoirs. Her forthcoming memoir, WHEN NOBODY WAS WATCHING, is due this fall.
Swimming – Missy Franklin
Curious about Franklin’s reading habits? Well here’s the scoop on her Rio reading list per Travel and Leisure Magazine. “I’m a huge reader,” says Franklin. “A few days before a trip, I have a great time researching what everyone is reading and picking the books for my flight.” Her books include: AFTER YOU by JoJo Moyes, COURT OF MIST AND FURY by Sarah J. Maas, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr, and KISSES FROM KATIE by Katie Davis.
Tennis – Serena Williams
Williams is now a four-time Olympian who has won gold in both singles (2012) and doubles (2000, 2008, 2012). Reading is listed among her hobbies and her favorite author is Maya Angelou. I found this fun YouTube video, “73 Questions with Serena Williams | Vogue” and one question was: “What’s one book that made a lasting impression on you?” Her answer: LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg. Also, according to USA Today, she arrived in Rio and had a Harry Potter book with her for the flight.
Track & Field – Brianna Rollins (100m hurdles)
In her family, Rollins is the oldest with six younger brothers, so it’s hard to imagine how anyone would have been able to find a quiet corner to read while growing up. Rollins, a three-time NCAA Champion, will be making her Olympic debut in Rio says she stays focused by reading self-help books — they keep her positive.
Track & Field – Abbey D’Agostino (5000m)
D’Agostino, who ran for Dartmouth, is one of the most decorated athletes in Ivy League history. FloTrack did a great interview question asking her who she would have dinner with (living or dead) and why? One of her picks included: “Don Miller (the author of my favorite book, BLUE LIKE JAZZ) because his story touched the core of me during a challenging time in my life. It’s raw, honest, and incredibly profound…”
Of course, the book you know they would all like to read is an Olympic record book with their name and outstanding 2016 Olympic performance recorded. Cheers to all competing this summer in Rio!