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Chalked Up: My Life in Elite Gymnastics

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Overview

Fanciful dreams of gold-medal glory led Jennifer Sey to the local gymnastics club in 1976. A natural aptitude and a willingness to endure punishing hard work took her to the elite ranks by the time she was eleven years old. Jennifer traveled the country and the world competing for the U.S. National team, but the higher she set her sights—the world championships, the 1988 Olympics—the more she began to ignore her physical and mental well-being. Jennifer suffered devastating injuries, developed an eating disorder, ...

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

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Overview

Fanciful dreams of gold-medal glory led Jennifer Sey to the local gymnastics club in 1976. A natural aptitude and a willingness to endure punishing hard work took her to the elite ranks by the time she was eleven years old. Jennifer traveled the country and the world competing for the U.S. National team, but the higher she set her sights—the world championships, the 1988 Olympics—the more she began to ignore her physical and mental well-being. Jennifer suffered devastating injuries, developed an eating disorder, and lived far from family and friends, all for the sake of winning. When her parents and coaches lost sight of her best interests, Jennifer had no choice but to redefine her path into adulthood. She had to save herself.

Chalked Up delivers an unforgettable coming-of-age story that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt not good enough and has finally come to accept who they were meant to be.

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Editorial Reviews

Real Simple Magazine (blog)
“CURLING UP WITH A GOOD HEALTH BOOK: In 1986 Sey was the number one gymnast in America. Her memoir recounts what it took to get there. As a former gymnast myself (no where NEAR as accomplished), I relished this unvarnished account of the sport.”
The Observer
“Sey’s memoir has sent shock waves through the tightly knit world of top athletes, sparking controversy…She hopes her book might serve as both a wake-up call to a sport that she says she still loves and a lesson to parents whose children enter the world of top athletics.”
Kathryn Bertine
“A cautionary tale to not just athletes, parents, coaches, and judges but to fans of gymnastics… intense, gripping, and powerful.”
Jake Tapper
“A remarkably candid, unblinking portrait of what it truly takes to become a champion…that may forever alter the way you watch sports.”
Dominique Moceanu
“She has eloquently and fairly exposed a dark side to our sport that parents have long needed to be made aware of.”
(blog) - Real Simple Magazine
"CURLING UP WITH A GOOD HEALTH BOOK: In 1986 Sey was the number one gymnast in America. Her memoir recounts what it took to get there. As a former gymnast myself (no where NEAR as accomplished), I relished this unvarnished account of the sport."
International Gymnast
“Chalked Up pulls no punches…Sey’s writing is brilliant…offering perceptive psychoanalysis of everyone in her isolated world…Chalked Up is proof that she still has alot of guts.”
Penthouse
“Is the wonder of seeing these tiny bodies propel through space worth the horror they suffer to achieve grace and beauty? Or—and this is a conclusion the Sey refuses to draw—is this “sport” just institutionalized, commercialized, child abuse?”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061351471
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/21/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 371,705
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

The 1986 national gymnastics champion and a seven-time U.S. National team member, Jennifer Sey is a graduate of Stanford University. She lives with her husband and two sons in San Francisco.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(20)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2010

    Great if you are into gymnastics or elite sports, not so great if you are not.

    Journey to the Top and Down Again

    If you were to meet Jennifer Sey today you would see a Stanford graduate and successful businesswoman with a husband, and two sons. However, in the 1980's you would have met a completely different person. You would have met a young gymnast who was covered in bruises and on the verge of self destruction. There was never a sacrifice that Sey would not make in order to achieve her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast.
    At six years old Sey started gymnastics. She was a natural and her family was willing to sacrifice everything to make her into a champion. She quickly moved up the ranks and by the age of eleven was one of America's elites. As Sey set her goals higher and expected more from herself she began to fall into a deep downward spiral that was ignored by all adults in her life. She endured erratic coaches, long days of hard workouts, and multiple major injuries only to crumble after winning the National Title.
    While Sey brings to light the dark side of this beautiful sport, you can't help but wonder what her motivation was for writing Chalked Up. Did she write it to show the cruelties that go into the making of a champion, or as a reminder of how dedicated she was and what she had to put up with to make it to the top? Sey deserves praise for all that she went through; but, in this novel she does more boasting about her advanced skills and natural talent than describing what and how a gymnast must push through the difficulties of the sport.
    Even though the motivation for the creation of Chalked Up is questionable it effectively shares an honest report of the side effects of elite competition on a young woman. Additionally, it describes how gymnastics made Sey into the successful woman and parent that she is today. Sey, was able to put her experiences into a format that keeps the readers attention and leaves them never wanting to set the book down. Sey creatively starts each new part with a detailed and interesting account of an experience that will occur after her achievements and failures of the following section.
    This book would not be interesting for everyone but if you have any ties to elite sports you will find it gripping and easy to relate to. The author provies an inside look into a sport where body image is everything and perfection is expected. Sey reveals the price that is paid by young athletes to achieve their dreams and the dreams of their families.
    If you enjoy gymnastics or find Chalked Up to be enlightening or moving, other good reads are Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, a book about the making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters and Letters to a Young Gymnast, about the life Nadia Comaneci the first gymnast to receive a perfect 10.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Very good

    I am only thirteen but i must say that is the best sports book i have ever read.. i mean for a person my age to say something like that means something right. But u truly have to be into gymnastics to truly understsnd what happening. But i recamend to some who truley loves and are into gymnastics to read because then you will truly unsyand the readers message.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    LILYGHOST

    Im locked out

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    Amazing

    Insightful look at the sport. Author does a great job of illustrating how easily self-destructive tendencies in a young girl can be exacerbated by the pressures of this level of competition. She doesn't blame the sport or the people involved but rather draws a vivid picture of what a combustible brew combining overachieving but vulnerable young girls with an injury-inducing sport can be. A sport that for "women" is over before they even truly reach womanhood. I finished this book feeling for any parent who has ever tried to lead their child through that quagmire of fame, injury, ruthlessness and discipline and glory.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Chalked Up

    This is an extremely moving, emotional book about a gymnast obsessed with perfectionism. It covers the story of a young woman who was willing to do anything to be the best. Caution: Don't avoid gymnastics because of how it was portrayed in this book. The author mentions this multiple times.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2008

    Heartbreaking and heart wrenching

    The author is an excellent writer with a will that stands up to anything. This book is both timely and an important read for parents whose children are extreme 'excellers' in sports. And a must read for sports lovers, even non-gymnasts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2008

    A reviewer

    Gymnasts who may dismiss this book as a negative portrayal of the sport will be pleasantly surprised. Jennifer's experience should be a cautionary tale to coaches and parents who fail to recognize eating disorders, overuse injuries, obsessive behaviors, and plain old unhappiness in their gymnasts. It's a fascinating account of her childhood memories, and it's well-written. As she says, it's not 'an indictment of the sport,' yet it's something that everyone in gymnastics should be aware of. I'm still a huge fan of gymnastics...but you don't have to be pro- or anti-gymnastics--or involved in the sport at all--to enjoy the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2014

    LEVEL TWENTYTHREE

    ~crayla

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    poppkornrocks

    Should i read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    Chalked up

    Awsome book if you like the olympics, im really loving this book

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  • Posted January 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is a bitter read. Very bitter. While in interviews, Sey rea

    This is a bitter read. Very bitter. While in interviews, Sey reads like someone who has been able to rationalize a lot of actions, and is merely sharing her story as a way to show the world what can happen when things don't go according to plan, her book reads like a little girl who is mad at the world for doing her wrong. There are moments when she concedes that a lot of the actions are her own doing, but everything else is the fault of her parents, her coaches, the media, the sport, the other athletes, and everything/everyone else in between. While there is a lot of pressure with the sport from outside sources, it doesn't go wrong unless the individuals themselves allow it, and although Jennifer does hint at that fact, it is not the major point in her book, because her voice is so bitter throughout the writing.

    I think, in retrospect, that a lot of that bitterness comes from her own inability to reconcile her own inadequacies and the arduous journey with her unreached goals. There are plenty of other girls in the sport who went through everything she did, and possibly more, but in the end, felt that those ends justified the means. She never got to an end that she was satisfied with; she actually gave up shortly after her win at Nationals in 1986. So the methods she employed never justified the end product, leaving her very bitter in the process with her own apparent "failure". And when reading her book, it seems that that sense of failure didn't come from just her coaches, parents, or other people, as she presents it; while they may have contributed to it through some actions, it was ultimately her own overzealous personality that led to her own failure, and her own psyche that won't let it go. So the book itself comes off as very raw and rough, because Sey hasn't lost that edge to her anger, and seems unable to personally take that responsibility and let it all go.

    Still, it was a good read. It's hard for the average person to know what it's like as a world-class athlete, with all the personal sacrifices and changes that go along with being the best, so the back-story is captivating. That time period in US gymnastics was somewhat ignored, because it was a time when the Europeans completely dominated originality and performance in the sport, and the US aspect was not a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention the Cold War and the athletes that lost out on their Olympic dreams with the boycotting of the Moscow Olympics, and the impact that had on athletes of the time, being uncertain as to the fruitation of their dreams in the wake of silly things like politics. Sey's story provides an interesting perspective on that time that isn't discussed much, and I found it interesting.

    Overall, a good read, and I commend Jennifer for getting her story out there, even with the rough edges. I'm sure as the future unfolds, she'll find more peace with herself and her decisions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    Inredible

    As a gymnast it was great to see how elite gymnasts lived and dealt with their pain and difficulties. Though the stories were tough, I love gymnastics more than I ever did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2008

    A Beautifully Written, Heartbreaking, Must Read

    With glittering spare prose and clear-eyed insight, Jennifer Sey recounts the harrowing tale of her pursuit of gymnastics glory in the eighties. She is not afraid to delve into the dark places with this gritty, uncompromising look at winning at all costs. Remarkably, Sey doesn't indict the sport or blame anyone for her experience, other than herself and her own drive for success. It is a heartbreaking story but ultimately one of true strength and grace. A brave, honest, unflinching personal book. A must read for parents, fans, athletes, and anyone who likes a well-written, riveting story. Read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2014

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    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews

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