Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters

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9780446672504: Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters

In this disturbing book, sports columnist Ryan exposes the tarnish beneath Olympic gold as she reveals heartbreaking stories of the physical and psychological abuse suffered by countless young girls driven to achieve Olympic medals. In harrowing detail, Ryan documents the preponderance of abuse, eating disorders, weakened bones, and damaged psyches that are often the result of intensive training. 16-page photo insert.

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About the Author:

Joan Ryan is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

From Booklist:

Ryan, an award-winning columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, offers disturbing anecdotal evidence indicating that women's gymnastics and figure skating are physically and psychologically damaging to a majority of participants with realistic Olympic aspirations. Ryan's emphasis is on gymnastics; figure skating is a cutthroat sport, to be sure, and it encourages bulimia, but compared to gymnastics, it's almost pristine. Ryan documents that between the years 1976^-92, the average U.S. Olympic gymnast became a year younger, six and one-half inches shorter, and 23 pounds lighter. The sport not only attracts tiny girls, it manufactures them: these days the demanding physical requirements of championship women's gymnastics can only be met by prepubescent, very light, very flexible girls. Control their weight through intimidation, delay the onset of puberty via exhaustion and starvation, and voila{ }! You've got little girls forever. But by delaying puberty, one also inhibits the production of estrogen, which is essential for adult bone density. There are now former gymnasts in their twenties with the bone density of 90-year-olds. Equally damaging is the obsession with weight passed on to young gymnasts by their coaches. Onetime Olympic hopeful Christie Henrich weighed less than 50 pounds when she slipped into a coma in July_ 1994 and died. Ryan portrays the gymnastic training of Olympic hopefuls as systemic, sanctioned child abuse. It's a nightmare vision that may forever change one's image of those herculean efforts by such Olympian pixies as Olga Korbutt and Mary Lou Retton. Expect this shocking expose{‚}to attract major media attention. Wes Lukowsky

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