A Fun Reminder of "The Complete Book of the Olympics"
A Quick Book Review
I'm so glad to have found - belatedly - Jeremy Fuchs' 2020 publication "Total Olympics", a compilation of 'Every Obscure, Hilarious, Dramatic, and Inspiring Tale Worth Knowing', as its subtitle aptly puts it. Although it was published in advance of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, I only recently made it through - call it my own Olympic postponement!
Many of the tales in Total Olympics will be familiar to those deeply experienced with Olympic history, but Fuchs does offer moments of unique perspective, particularly in his division of certain chapters by Olympian siblings, Olympic 'firsts', Olympic criminals, or Eastern Bloc athletes, for example.
And, of course, reporting of post-2014 Olympic facts takes us further than Wallechinsky had. Witness Bode Miller's unfortunate turn at commentating and Manteo Mitchell's broken leg exploits.
Although, certain retrospectives of older Olympians and moments were revelations, too. Some particular 'new', deeper insights for me included gymnastics legend Laryssa Latynina's proud and dominant personality, the depth of Denver 1976's ineptitude (those Games were moved to Innsbruck), the resilience of gymnast Agnes Keleti, rower Henry Pearce's face-ff with a family of ducks in 1928, Lamine Gueye's breakthrough skiing, equestrian Humberto Mariles' 'colorful' post-Games career, the drive of Melbourne 1956 champion Tom Courtney, and the fact that skijoring was a one-time demonstration sport.
Notable ancient Olympians - Herodotus, Leonidas, etc. - and Paralympians - particularly Trischa Zorn and Marlon Shirley - get proper recognition, too, which is a feature not found in cursory Olympic research, including Wallechinsky's work.
But the real pleasure for me was a sense of kindred spirit of fandom that is the crux of Total Olympics. The perseverance of Team USA's debut women's swim team at Antwerp 1920 - "but they persisted..." - and the everlasting dignity of discus thrower Al Oerter - "There is something about the Games that gets in your blood. All those people from those various nations, all with the same purpose...I can really get charged up about the Olympics" - showcase the excitement and emotion of the Olympics. Thanks, Total Olympics - I'll visit and revisit those stories always.