I have just recently finished reading the Four Year Olympian written by Jeremiah Brown. In the interest of full disclosure, I was approached by the publisher of the book to read it and then post an honest Amazon Review. I accepted and what follows is my honest reflection about my experience reading Jeremiah’s work. Following reading the book, I reached out to Jeremiah and asked him to answer some questions I had to provide more context for his work. You can read Jeremiah’s Q and A by visiting this link.
The Four Year Olympian is a book written from the personal perspective of Brown from his teenage years and (Spoiler alert!) details his journey to realize his dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.
The author starts the novel with an account of bullying and his response to that event at an early age which sets the tone for much of the book — the recurring theme of challenges that life and training for a chance at Olympic glory provide and the author’s ability to handle those challenges.
In the early part of the book, the Brown writes about a brush with the law and also about his relationship with his girlfriend. Both of these are early challenges, and it is clear that Brown had growing up to do and these serve as a reality check. The author grows up a great deal throughout his experiences, however, not at the expense of family time and being so consumed by the goal he has set for himself. I’m not here to judge, but it warrants mentioning that the book provides a very real picture of the sacrifices that Jeremiah had to make to row at the highest levels. The author does credit those around him and the support they provided during his transformational journey.
Following graduation from college, the author continues to tell his story about his continuing athletic journey and experience learning how to row. For this reader, this part of the book was the most engaging and compelling. I enjoy a good origin story such as how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman or how Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi Knight. In this case, Brown turns from a raw athletic talent into Olympic rower. I read this part of the book in one sitting. Naturally, I am biased, but for this reader, these series of chapters represent the classic hero’s journey. (really, the whole book also serves this function) Additionally, from a personal athletic and coaching point of view, it was interesting to find out more about the training methodologies employed by Mike Spracklen and the other coaches that helped Jeremiah toward his goal. Although, to call this book a comprehensive coaching resource would be misleading. To continue my movie analogy, I would compare Spracklen to the drill sergeant played by Louis Gossett Junior in An Officer and a Gentleman.
The book details that Coach Spracklen was the target of much scrutiny during his latter tenure as Canadian national team coach. The author’s relationship with Coach Spracklen undergoes several changes during the book. I don’t want to give much away, but I left wondering if their relationship would have turned out differently if the Olympics had turned out differently for the Canadian Men’s Eight at the 2012 London Olympics. The question of does the end justify the means when training methodology is concerned, is an important theme in the book.
By the end of the novel, Brown talks about his struggles with adapting and adjusting to new challenges in life after the Olympics. I must confess that I had a tear in my eye when I read about the author’s struggles with meaning following the Olympics and that athletes can struggle with depression and anxiety when the lifestyle of consistent training has come to an end. I appreciated this part of the book because I think that this is an important subject that we need to be talking about. This final part of the book tends to leave the reader at a low. (although important and brings even more reality to the book) While I felt it was important to read the truth, it does cause the book to end in a slightly anticlimactic way. Think the end of The Graduate, and you get
The most striking thing about this book is the author’s honesty and candid nature. It would have been easy for the author to edit himself and project to the world a filtered view of his psyche. Jeremiah Brown has worked hard to add The Four Year Olympian to our collection of rowing books. I appreciate the courage that it took to write this book. It is hard to take an honest look at yourself and also speak your truth to the world even when it might leave the reader uncomfortable. The book serves as a reminder that life can throw many challenges us. With perseverance, hard work, and most of all, the support of loved ones, we can follow our dreams and overcome our inner demons or at very least silence them for a while. Worth your time.
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