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Tough Girl: An Olympian's Journey

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  132 ratings  ·  24 reviews
After several failed swim lessons, young Carolyn Wood finally conquers her fears and dives into unknown waters in Tough Girl. By 1958 she has set a goal to make the 1960 Olympic team and, along with teammates and competitors, begins the arduous road to Rome. Losses, pain, fear, and fatigue accompany the rambunctious athlete as she finds her way through athletic training, s ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published September 25th 2016 by White Pine Press (NY)
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Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Read All The Way Through

I came into this book with zero expectations and ended up pleasantly surprised. This book had an amazing thoughtfulness and flow that kept me interested from beginning to end. I had the pleasure of taking English from Ms. Wood in 1999 and at the time she never mentioned any of her adventures in class. It's great 17 years later to see that she is as great a writer as she was a teacher. I probably wouldn't read as much today if it weren't for some of the literature th
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book and the different stories Wood weaves together here. I enjoyed reading about the swimming and the competition, as well as her reflections on her childhood and being a young lesbian athlete during the 1960s.
#ReadingWomen #10 - Woman Athlete
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: memoir, gay and lesbian, sports
Carolyn Wood, whom I knew in the olden days--my stepfather treated her mononucleosis--is fast on her feet and swims at the deep end.

"On the way to France [walking the Camino de Santiago to the ninth century cathedral in Spain], I stop first in Louisville to visit my son, now a professional actor, where he's preparing for Long Day's Journey into Night, an apt title for what lies before me."

She won a gold medal swimming in the 1960 Olympics. While at the Olympics, she read Battle Cry and On the
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A deep reflection on the nature of self wrapped up in a thrilling edge-of-your-seat account of heartbreak and triumph at the 1960 Olympic games, I finished this book last week and I still can’t put it down! The drama of Wood’s incredible pursuit of a spot on the Olympic swim team, her grueling workouts, her intensity and drive, is interspersed with reflective chapters detailing her hike along the Camino de Santiago in 2012. Wood deftly works back and forth between these two extraordinary stories ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Give me a story about a queer lady athlete and I'm almost guaranteed to be into it. The bonus with this book is that Carolyn Wood is a pretty great writer. The book tracks two stories in parallel: Wood's childhood from age three to adolescence, mainly building up to her participation (and gold medal) in swimming in the 1960 Olympics in Rome; and the long solitary walk she took on the Camino de Santiago in 2012 after the end of her decades-long relationship with her partner Rose. Both threads mak ...more
Dana Berglund
While this isn't a perfect piece of literature, it gets bumped up to five stars because the topics she covers are all so personally impactful to me. Chapters alternate between her childhood and adolescent swimming career in Portland in the 1950s and early 60s, and then 2012, when she is walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, solo, following a devastating break up. The modern chapters are also filled with flashbacks and musings on the decades in between, decades in which she got married, had a ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this authentic memoir of a young swimmer growing up in the 50s who discovers the joy and accomplishment of success, who listens and hears the messages of guts and determination from coaches and mentors, and earns her place on the US Olympic Team after her freshman year in high school. It's not all glory, of course, and the era, time and place, plays a huge role in her story. The memoir is written 50 years later, when the echoes of those tough lessons come back to accompany the author o ...more
Joni Taylor
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think I am a really hard grader when it comes to ratings. For me, if I am able to walk away from a book, and not finish it like a bowl of ice cream, and read deep into the night, then I don't give a 5 star. But this one is great, even though it took me a bit longer to get through. As an athlete and a woman, I am so thankful for Ms. Wood's story, and pre Title IV accomplishments. This story alone is worth the read. But it goes deeper. Much. And her integrity and commitment to herself, and her h ...more
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ourbookgroup-com
I am inspired by the commitment and persistence required of both writers and athletes, so it was a special treat to meet author Carolyn Wood - an Olympic swimming champion at age 14 - and discuss her first book and memoir, "Tough Girl". Our book group hosted a lively discussion with Wood about her writing process and the Olympic journey. And, we got to touch an Olympic gold medal!

Wood's intense training and focus in preparing for the 1960 Olympics - and the excitement of the competition - is th
Thomas DeWolf
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I loved this book... couldn't put it down... in my full and busy life I finished reading it in five days... what a lovely juxtaposition between her life as an Olympic swimmer in 1960, and walking the Camino de Santiago some 55 years later.

“This trek is my Walden, an experiment in living alone and paying attention here in the real world. What have I noticed?”

"I could have been following Walt Whitman along the open road, ‘afoot and light-hearted… healthy, free, the world before me, the long brown
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Another alternating story, between her swimming days and her days walking the Camino de Santiago. I enjoyed the swimming stories, having been a swimmer myself. She shared other parts of her life as well, including being gay and having a 40 year relationship which ended just prior to her hike, however it was not the primary focus of this book.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read about an Olympian I have never heard of. I enjoyed her story but I guess I was hoping for much more detail and depth about her Camino experience (I just walked it this year) so I was pretty disappointed in that regard. Also, I am not sure how to express this but I felt the author was quite detached from her story, almost as if she was an observer rather than the star.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Carolyn grew up in Portland and swam in the 1960 Olympics as a 14-year old! Interesting story of her journey, Portland in the 50's, and tapping into that strength to walk solo one of the caminos in Spain. ...more
Paula Yerke
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well written memoir covering the author's Olympian story as a young girl and then her Camino journey in later life. The Olympian story was very good. I only wished there was more to the Camino story. ...more
Jackie Howell
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent bio. Well written, the story of a girl raised to be an Olympic champion. Yes, that was a surprise, wasn't it, me being cliche'd. Just read it if you like strong women. ...more
Fay Fawcett
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fast moving, easy read. It is amazing what a person can do if they really put their mind to it. A young girls desire to go to the olympic's. Trials , errors and a gold metal. ...more
Being a swimmer and having walked the Camino de Santiago, I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. I should point out that the book is perhaps 90% about swimming and 10% about the camino.
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Carolyn’s writing and her account of her life.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I found this book by searching the New Releases at the library. What a great find.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Carolyn Wood is going through a divorce and mourning the end of her relationship of 3 decades. She and her partner Rose spent almost 30 years together. As a way to come to terms with her grief and loss, she walks the Camino de Santiago. She also remembers her life as a swimmer who went to the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

This book was an excellent read. Carolyn Wood does a beautiful job of writing about sports and her inner life without resorting to a single sports cliche.
I was fascinated by her jour
Vinnie Kinsella
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I should start with a disclaimer that I worked on this book (I designed the interior and did the ebook conversion) and know the author personally. Regardless, my love for the book is rooted in my relationship to it as a reader. Carolyn's tale of seeking to connect her adult self to the tough girl she was in her youth filled my eyes with tears more than once. We all know what it's like to find our lives upended by loss, wondering how to exist when something that in part defined us for so long is ...more
Marilyn Zornado
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As someone who hates autobiographies, and who does not like sports; I have found Carolyn Wood's book to be a compelling story on many levels. While she traces her early years of training for the Olympics, we also move forward in time and learn about her challenges of coming out as lesbian at a time when the LGBT were treated as criminals. While I knew my friends faced discrimination, they hid from their peers the many indignities they suffered. Carolyn sheds light on these difficult times in a s ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent writing and a good tale of her journey as an athlete.
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Carolyn Wood, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, became one of the youngest swimmers ever to win an Olympic gold medal. She is a retired high school English teacher who spent more than thirty years encouraging students to write and is now taking her own advice, although often she’d rather be practicing yoga, or outdoors tending her bees and garden or hiking backroads and mountain trails. Ms. Woo ...more

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