Alison Mowbray wasn’t a sporty kid and thought that being good at sport was a pre-requisite for going to the Olympics. She thought she might be a doctor, a teacher, a Blue Peter presenter or maybe the first ever female naval submariner.
This is a Silver medal life of achievement, addiction, alcoholism, anorexia and Alzheimer’s. But a Gold medal story of passion and perseverance and not letting anything or anybody get between yourself and your dream. Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life is a fascinating sports autobiography that will appeal to fans of rowing, the Olympics and sports psychology. Written 8 years after that medal winning moment, it also deals with what happens next in an athlete’s life. There are many themes that will particularly resonate with women, and anyone who enjoys cooking will love Alison’s flapjack recipe and the many food references throughout the book. This is a book for people who love sports autobiographies and for those who never usually read them.
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This is an excellent book. Of all the rowing autobiographies that have appeared since Steve Redgrave's was published in 2000 at the time of the Sydney Olympics, Alison Mowbray's is the one I would recommend most highly to anybody, whether they are interested in rowing or not.
It is a beautifully written autobiography that covers the story of a schoolgirl with no apparent sporting talent who started rowing at Liverpool University in the late 80s, was selected as the GB single sculler at the Sydney Games and four year later became an Olympic Silver Medallist in the quadruple sculls at the Athens Games in 2004. It was not a trouble-free path. Along the way, Alison gives a inside view of the politics, manipulation and worse inside the women's squad. Moreover, her descriptions of the experience of being under two severe and contrasting coaching regimes leading up to Sydney and Athens, respectively, are revealing and fascinating.
Alison gives us the best descriptions of sculling technique I have ever read, and an insight into the psychological and physical preparation of a true racer; indeed her performance in the boat was way better than her ranking in the squad based on the dreaded ergometer and other land-based tests results. Her description was such that I felt inspired to get back into my single sculling boat in order to search for the magic she evokes in the text (but didn't actually do it since I had sold the boat 10 years before)!
The rest of the book deals with the other challenges in her family life, how she overcame them, dealt with them or learned to live with them. Included amongst the challenges is the oft forgotten trauma associated with giving up the obsessively focussed life of a top-level sports women, and the struggle to find contentment in life after rowing.
One could write much more, but suffice it to say that this was one of the few books that I have read 'cover to cover' in just a couple of days. I found Alison's book informative, inspiring and, above all, thought-provoking. Highly recommended for anybody, but particularly for young people even if they think they have no sporting potential. And naturally a must for all aspiring young rowers.
by David Wilkes
Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life by Alison Mowbray
This truly inspiriational book tells the journey of a seemingly “unsporty” girl who becomes an Olympic rower. Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life is beautifully written: it is a frank, honest account of Alison Mowbray’s path to becoming an Olympian. It is a thoroughly enjoyable “page-turner” that brought me to tears and made me laugh in equal measure.
As well as giving a fascinating insight into the level of dedication and mental strength required in the world of Olympic rowing, Alison talks very openly about her personal life – it is an incredibly moving story and one that we can all relate to in some part.
A thread that runs throughout the book is the manner in which Alison uses her coping strategies when she is faced with tough times – she shares her many mantras – one of my favourites is: ‘Expect nothing, Blame no one, Do something’.
I would wholeheartedly recommend Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life and would especially encourage parents to buy a copy for their teenage children who are growing up in this ever-competitive 21st Century.
by Sharon Andrew