Not being interested in sport as a whole (Ice Hockey being the main exception to this rule), I can honestly say that the Olympics, along with the discussions concerning reserved traffic lanes and the obsession with Tom Daly passed me by. Clearly my ignorance allowed a couple of interesting stories to pass me by, and when I stumbled across the Beijing Olympic Gold Medal Diver, Matthew Mitcham, I was surprised by what he had gone through to get to the Olympics and get to the high level that he is at.
When reading on, I then found out that at 24 he wrote an autobiography, and with my appetite whetted with the outline of the story, I headed off to my usual online suppliers to grab a copy of this book. Failing miserably to obtain it through my usual channels (it seems that there hasn't been a print run ouside of Australia/NZ), I ended up having a copy shipped by QBD to the UK. Slightly peeved at the book being AU$ 29.99 and the postage AU$ 25.00, I sincerely hoped that the book was worth it.
Well, after a fortnight's wait for the delivery, I couldn't put this book down.
Mitcham clearly pours out his heart in this book, with the content constantly drawing you in as you read on. The book takes you on a journey of a boy who was born to a young mother who hadn't planned a pregancy and whose father wasn't a part of his life as a child. Wanting to become the best at something, trampolining becomes a way of life until he is spotted diving at the aquatic centre by Mr Wong.
Eventually giving up trampolining to focus on diving as there was more funding (and thus opportunity), the Olympian takes you through the mindset of a teenager who wants to excel, but at the the same time suffers from the black dog of depression, eventually manifesting itself in self harm. Finding his sexuality he also takes out his depression by using drugs, alcohol and clubbing until all hours in gay bars with him then dropping out of diving altogether.
Finally finding love with his long term parner, Lachlan in Sydney, he begins to knuckle down to Diving again by working with a new coach, Chava Sobrino and with luck, courage and determination, he manages to get the backing of Diving Australia to head to the Beijing Olympics, where, much to his surprise he wins gold. Returning, plagued by injuries, the black dog of depression returns and turning to alcohol and crystal meth, Mitcham falls of the bandwagon again having to check in to rehab in Sydney's Northern Beaches area to clean up ready for London 2012.
The book is guaranteed to leave you laughing (the Pam Ann interview had me in stitches!), crying and genuinely astounded when you read the grit, determination and sheer hard work that Olympic sports people have to put in to become the best in the world. It shows how failure, or rather fear of failure (stinking thinking as Mitcham calls it) can lead you down the wrong road. In contrast, it also highlights what a positive mental attitude can actually achieve.
So was the book worth paying almost double to get it over to the UK? Yes; definitely. It certainly gives you lot of food for thought.