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Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams
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Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,455 ratings  ·  191 reviews
The true story of the 1986 U.S. National Gymnastics champion whose lifelong dream was to compete in the Olympics, until anorexia, injuries, and coaching abuses nearly destroyed her

Fanciful dreams of gold medals and Nadia Comaneci led Jennifer Sey to become a gymnast at the age of six. She was a natural at the sport, and her early success propelled her family to sacrifice
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by William Morrow
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,455 ratings  ·  191 reviews

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Start your review of Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, that was horrifying. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch a gymnastics routine without feeling a little sick to my stomach. I've never thought much about the sport, except watching the Olympic competitions every four years with mild interest -- and probably only if nothing else was on television at that. I never thought about how young the female competitors are or what happens to the ones past their prime, at the ripe old age of nineteen or twenty. Many athletic careers just begin to ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
The title of this book is somewhat misleading. When it says "Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorder, and Elusive Olympic Dreams", one might assume that it was written to include multiple experiences, exposing the sport as a whole through different facets. In reality, this is a memoir, told by Jennifer Sey, of her personal journey through elite gymnastics in the mid to late eighties, and doesn't include other perspectives. So it really should be "Chalked ...more
Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who loves gymnastics.
Recommended to stephanie by: ainsley
it was a good look inside the world of gymnastics, and showed both the good and the bad. it's heartbreaking to read about how worried jen was about getting older, knowing that the clock was ticking.

jennifer sey was the 1986 national champion.

the way weight and puberty become so ingrained in you - how you actually want to retard your growth because growing in any way changes the way you can move through the air.

it's a good look inside in the world of young gymnastics. the way it sucks up
Jun 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-reads
The title makes it sound as if this is going to be one of those muckraking, voyeuristic looks at the sport in general (which are, you know, awesome), but it's actually essentially a memoir. The merciless coaches, overzealous parents, eating disorders, etcetera, are by and large her own. Unlike most sports memoirs, it appears to actually have been written in its entirety by Ms. Sey, which definitely has an upside as well as a downside. Just to get the down out of the way, she's obviously a ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'll start by saying I've read pretty much every gymnastics book out there...the good, the bad, and the ugly. I knew exactly what to expect when I picked up this book: The world of elite gymnastics is not all sunshine and roses. Sey was one of my favorite gymnasts in the years after Mary Lou. Not so much the case anymore now that I've read her book. I got the feeling very early on that her main reason for writing was to get back at ANYONE who had every wronged her during her gymnsatics career. ...more
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Jennifer Sey, the 1986 U S National Gymnastic Champion. The book tells us of her mindset, what drove her to compete and what it took for her to reach that level of competition. It begins at the age of 3 when she learned her first cartwheel, and takes us through to the present. What she went through on a mental and physical level to reach a goal is both inspiring and upsetting, as is what's next for a person, still so young, who has spent their entire life in training for a ...more
You were a gymnast?
Did you make it to the Olympics?

This is the conversation pattern that haunts Jennifer Sey, who was the 1986 US gymnastics champion, but by the time the next Olympics rolled around, she was too stricken, physically and mentally, to compete for a spot on the Olympic team. Her bodys desire to weigh more than 100 pounds to grow up from a skinny child into an adult woman and her brains unravelling ability to focus so completely on a single goal undid her career, leaving
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I enjoyed Chalked Up very much, and I think that the whole narrative was told in an enjoyable and simple fashion. My only real complaint is Sey's very repetitive language - she will use the same phrase again and again and again, and never deviate from it even when common synonyms are available. However I don't hold this against her as, simply she is not a writer, she is a former gymnast, now mother, and I didn't particularly expect her to have a stand out style.

I'm very aware of the pressures
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports, own-a-copy, blog
Jennifer Sey was the 1986 U.S. Womens Gymnastics champion and the road that she took that eventually led her to this championship was filled with drama, heartbreak, injury and eventually triumph. Everything that she and her family went through to get to that pinnacle is chronicled in her memoir Chalked Up. It is an honest look at the life of elite gymnastics, a sport in which many participants retire from the sport before obtaining a high school diploma.

Sey covers a lot of topics in the book as
Monica Zeringue
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
As a former nationally competitive gymnast I found this book interesting to read. I could relate to the author and even empathize on a more personal level especially with regard to the favoritism and biased behavior of coaches/judges etc. Her experience in the sport did not seem to be a very happy one, and perhaps this book could serve as a warning to anyone with a thought of driving their children to highly competitive levels in anything (especially a sport such as gymnastics which has so much ...more
Sep 01, 2010 rated it liked it
There are plenty of books written by elite gymnasts (or other elite athletes) who talk about how their training was difficult, but it was ultimately all worthwhile. Jennifer Sey, former U.S. National Gymnastics Champion, has come to the conclusion that it was NOT all worthwhile. Her memoir details her injuries which never had time to heal before coaches were pushing her to compete again, self-abuse with laxatives and anorexia, and a splintered family that gave up all semblance of normal life in ...more
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
This started out a promising book - a behind the scenes look at elite gymnastics. What it turned into was some of that and then the author saying repeatedly, my family sacrificed everything for me and that was perfectly normal followed by my family wouldnt let me quit when I wanted to so I cut them out of my life. She just came across as petulant. She kept talking about how much stress she was under, how driven she was to succeed without her parents pushing her and how she abused her body to ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
I picked this up on a whim from the library. Probably not the best choice, considering that my younger son just got invited to join the competitive team at his gym, but I like to torture myself sometimes.

I learned that women's gymnastics should really be called girls' gymnastics. And this girl was particularly driven from a very young age, and was aided and abetted by all of the adults who surrounded her. She blames them a bit for this. It reads like a "why didn't you protect me from myself"
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book! Written by Jennifer Sey, the 1986 United States Gymnastics National Champion. She loved gymnastics and made it her whole life. Then her parents gave up their lives for her sport. Eventually she wants out, her parents won't let her, and she hates them. Along the way she breaks a lot of bones, develops bulimia nervosa, never menstruates and never has a boyfriend. Very interesting and gripping.
Aug 05, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a good time to read this story with the Olympics starting. It is a look behind the scenes from a perspective on a national champion who struggled with the stress, pressure and demands of the sport of gymnastics. It is an eye-opening look at what lies behind the glamor and the pomp. Teen girls who like Patricia McCormick's Cut will like this one.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
The book is not well-written, but the subject matter was very interesting and illuminates much of what is bad in this sport.
Jennifer Sey had issues from an early age and moving into the sport of gymnastics only exacerbated her own self-loathing, sense of inferiority and drive for praise. She became the U.S. women's national champion in 1986.The abusive coaching techniques seem rampant amongst the highest rated gyms and am afraid are still the norm, sad to say. I was most horrified by the
Well written and went by fast. Sey barely touched on any of the larger issues that are the focus of most gymnastics writings and focused purely on her own journey, giving the book a steamlined purity that served it well. Sey also gave a terrify look behind the curtain of the mindset it takes to be an elite athlete - and if that kind of perpetual self-loathing is necessary, I suddenly feel so much better about myself for never needing that level of validation.
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gymnastics fans / gymnasts / parents of gymnasts
How I Came To Read This Book: My favourite Olympic sport has always been gymnastics. I was in the mood to get geared up for London 2012 so I searched around (briefly) for a book on the sport and came across this one, which was published back in 2008 to coincide with Beijing. I got it from the library a couple of days later...

The Plot: I had no idea who Jennifer Sey was, or how her gymnastics career went. In fact, I assumed this was more of a nonfiction high-level look at gymnastics from each of
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I couldn't put this one down. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard before, but it was nice to hear a gymnast's perspective of the intense world of elite gymnastics. I immediately started thinking more about how my words and actions are perceived by my kids just as their mom and if I'm sending the messages I want to send. Also helps put things in perspective. Sey is a smart and articulate woman and it shows in her writing. My only complaint was towards the end it became a little too much about her ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the memoir of Jennifer Sey, a gymnast who competed at the elite level in the 80s. She shares her triumphs as well as frank depictions of things like emotionally manipulative coaches, rushed recoveries, and self-harm.

The writing style is fairly simple, which makes the parts about her harmful reaction to stress and her obsession with losing weight even more disturbing to read. Descriptions of the wear and tear that the endless practices caused to her young body kept making me put the book
Aug 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I read this immediately following the Olympics. I really enjoy watching Women's Gymnasatics, albeit in a conflicted way because I know that some fairly suspect stuff goes on in terms of what is reasonable for a young girls body. That being said, I drank this book in like a reality program on television (which is an interesting thing for me to say, since the only reality programs I really enjoy are the Glee Project and Chopped, maybe Cupcake Wars).

It was troubling throughout. I guess, though, my
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I should start by saying that I not only love memoirs, I love gymnastics. I think if I'd been born shorter and more limber, I'd almost certainly have pursued the sport. Jennifer Sey's memoir, however, makes me grateful that I was not born shorter and more limber. Because knowing my younger self, and reading her story, this could have been me. Chalked Up could have been my story.

Sey's memoir is self-reflective at points, but mostly keeps you locked inside the mind of a driven, self-critical young
Jul 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Emily Larson
Gymnastics is always my favourite sport during the Olypics, so I loved getting all the goss on how they get there. Pretty snappy read, tells the story of her gymnastics career.
I guess the pushy stage mother and chronic eating disorder are pretty standard, but this book goes beyond that to give the readers a sense of just how her family completely revolved around her focus on gymnastics until it split up her parents. Also evokes the extremely punishing physical demands and makes you realise just
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports
The two stars don't indicate a bad book, just that I didn't enjoy reading it. It's a chronicle of Sey's path to success in competitive gymnastics, and how quickly she fell out of that world once she decided to quit. Most of the time, it's not a fun world to be in. Sey brings up the complicated question of who's responsible for seeing child athletes (or a child who excels and competes in anything else) through their decisions. A national champion gymnast with a shot at the Olympics has ...more
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
While I did enjoy this read, I can honestly say I didn't walk away from reading this feeling like the author's life has become a joyous one. I felt like she was so sad and angry throughout the entire book. At the end when she is describing her present life, it seemed like she was still not satisfied. Though spent her whole life striving for more and more and better and better, I suppose this isn't a big surprise.

It was great to get a behind the scenes glimpse at the gymnastics world. What some
Whitney C.
Oct 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book takes you through the struggle of an Olympic level gymnast. It starts when she is young and develops her first interest in gymnastics to when she is older and has the opportunity to go to the Olympics. She deals with eating disorders, hard training, moving, making friends, and the pressure of her coaches, her parents, and herself. I would not recommend reading this book because it was a constant snooze fest. I couldn't concentrate on the book for more than about 10 pages at a time ...more
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Laura
Shelves: non-fiction
Well written, detailed account of life in competitive gymnastics. This book convinced me that I would never allow a child of mine to compete in the world of competitive gymnastics. Sey portrays the inside world of gyms, coaches, and "stage" parents. She is careful never to outright accuse her coaches or parents of abuse but the implication is clear. Happily, Sey has managed to move on and is married with two children and a successful career. Highly recommended read.
Angie Orlando
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jennifer Sey details her story as a "failed elite gymnast." It's an interesting terms, since she was the 1986 National champion." Sey has outstanding writing skills and tells us what it's really like to compete in a "little girls" sport.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gymnast
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
overall it was interesting, but i sort of felt like there were gaps where there shouldnt be, especially as she got older. but maybe thats just me.
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