80OLYMPIC REVIEWwww.olympic.orgBOOKREVIEWSIn the last century, the French did not really seethemselves as a sporting nation. This statement mayastonish those who see their athletic exploits today andtake note of the current French champions in track andfield, skiing, weightlifting, gymnastics and women'stennis among others, not to mention Laure Manaudou(pictured right), who is arguably one of the finest femaleswimmers in the world. There was a time, however,when this was not the case. The French did not considerexercise an essential activity, and the international resultsobtained over the past 80 years seldom gave reason forpride. A collective sense of deficiency became apparentaround 1960. One remembers Charles de Gaulle voicingsome concern after witnessing the poor performance ofthe French team at the Rome Olympic Games (the teamdid not win any gold medals).It has been argued that the elite themselves couldbe held responsible for this muscular deficiency, sincethey often despised physical exercise. Can it be saidthat the origin of this disdain may be found in theCatholic view of the body understood as a "tatteredthing"? The caricature of the "tall, strong and dumb"athlete influenced the way sport was taught in thenational education "à la française". To highlight thispoint even further, one must not forget Henri deMontherlant, who, at the age of 29, published LesOlympiquesin 1924. It was only later when he wasconsidered one of the best French writers of his timeand questioned about his passion for athletics did heanswer flatly that nothing about it interested him anymore. The new Pindar had defected to enemy ranks!In the country of Voltaire and Hugo, those whowanted to subscribe to a solid physical education policyalways had to refer to the British model: Pierre deCoubertin, Jules Rimet (inventor of football's World Cup),or Jacques Goddet, the charismatic director of L'Équipeand the Tour de France for the past 50 years.However, in 1910, some of the athletic intellectuals,who did not disdain mixing brawn and brains, createdthe association of French sports writers (Association desÉcrivains Sportifs). Towards the end of the century,Bernard Destremau (1917-2002), who was President ofthe association, as well as a diplomat, writer andcaptain of the Davis Cup French tennis team, wished toactualise an anthology incorporating the writings of the60 or so prize-winners of the association. Its primaryaim was to make the association's existence knownwhile offering a varied panorama of sports texts. Sadlyto say, Bernard Destremau died before seeing the workcome to fruition. The torch however was passed on, andthe work was taken up by the next President, MoniqueANTHOLOGIEDELALITTÉRATURESPORTIVEMON RÊVEOLYMPIQUE By: Antoine Dénériaz. Publisher: Altal, 2006. ISBN: 2-916736-01-8, 157 pages, in French.An athlete's autobiography: not very original, you may think! And yet, this book reveals humanity at its mostcombative and at its wisest. The sportsman gives usan insight into his world, that of alpine skiing, andmore broadly, that of sport and competition. His success is as much thanks to the support ofhis family and a particularly close-knit team as to hisown efforts and perseverance. Antoine Dénériaz proves through his own examplethat alone, one can not accomplish the greatestachievement for an athlete who participates in theOlympic Games: a gold medal.TRIUMPH THE UNTOLDSTORY OF JESSE OWENSAND HITLER'S OLYMPICSBy: Jeremy Schaap. Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.ISBN: 0-618-68822-6, 272 pages, in English.Jeremy Schaap delivers a powerful lesson in historyand humanity as he looks at the achievements of JesseOwens at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Starting withthe childhood in the 1920s of the Afro-Americanathlete, the author describes his fascinating sportingcareer that culminates in international recognition at theOlympic Games. Above all, he brings to life theatmosphere of pre-War Germany where Jesse Owens'success was the antithesis of Hitler's myth of Aryansuperiority. The book contains a series of internalmonologues and imaginary dialogues that make it anenjoyable read and reinforce its documentary value. It isneither a complete biography nor a history of the 1936Berlin Olympic Games, but a tribute to a man whothrough his courage and determination took the valuesof sport to the highest level.COPAIN DES SPORTSLE GUIDE DES PETITSSPORTIFS INTERFÉDÉRALBELGE, 1906-2006By: Serge Guérin. Publisher: Milanjeunesse, 2006. ISBN: 2-7459-2283-1, 300 pages, in French.This updated edition of Copain des Sportsshoulddelight all budding athletes. Richly illustrated withcharts, diagrams, photos and tables, it gives a detailedpresentation of more than 100 sports, from the bestknown to the more obscure. For each sport, there is afull explanation of the necessary equipment, the rightage to practise it, the organisation of competitions, theperformances of the great champions, etc. The authoralso suggests a series of exercises for each sport, aswell as tips for improving. This book can help youngathletes discover and choose a sport, or simply enjoythe amazing and entertaining information it has to offer. Selection proposed by the IOC Library, 1, Quai d'Ouchy, P.O. Box 1001, Lausanne, Switzerland. Tel. +41 (0)21 621 66 11. Fax +41(0)21 621 67 18. Visit the website www.olympic.org/library (loansservice, on-line catalogue, list of new acquisitions, lists of themed bibliographies).ANTHOLOGY OF SPORTS LITERATURE, BYASSOCIATION DES ÉCRIVAINS SPORTIFS, (ASSOCIATION OFFRENCH SPORTS WRITERS). ISBN:2-84394-993-9. 552 PAGES. REVIEWED BYÉRIC LAHMY
OLYMPIC REVIEW81Berlioux, the former IOC Director. The project was widelymodified and went very much further than just the worksof the Grand Prix winners. The anthology was finallypublished in December 2006 and had gained weight, asit brought together some 377 different extracts.The anthology opens with Thomas Bauer'sinteresting and scrupulous recollection of the beginningsand development of the association. It is followed by atestimony by Bernard Villard, who was a member (andsecretary) of the Écrivains Sportifs for over 50 years. Tothe winners of the Grand Prix de Littérature Sportive, theeditors have added many novelists and journalists whoshowed their enthusiasm for sport, among them Joseph-Henry Rosny and Antoine Blondin, the humorous andtalented eulogist of the Tour of France and the OlympicGames. They have also integrated historic authors whoseencounters with sport are more or less anecdotal, suchas Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, François-René deChateaubriand, André Gide or François Rabelais. Thecollective effort made by the sports writers - includingEuropean diving champion Nicole Pellissard - allows usto perceive the quality and substance coming out ofFrench literature, and makes this publication a success.The reviewer participated in the development of thisAnthology and one of his pieces has been included in it.GIMP: WHEN LIFE DEALSYOU A CRAPPY HAND,YOU CAN FOLD - OR YOUCAN PLAYBy: Mark Zupan and Tim Swanson.Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006. ISBN 0-06-112758-X, 276 pages, in English.Mark Zupan, currently captain of the Americanparalympic rugby team, tells the moving story of his life,describing his career as a high-school soccer player untilthe tragic accident that left him a tetraplegic at the ageof 18. With tremendous courage, Zupan writes about theperiod when his life was turned upside-down: all hecould think about was being able to walk again, then hesank into despair and loneliness. He goes on to describehow sport, friendship and love enabled him to start livingagain and be like everyone else. In 2004, "his" team won the bronze medal at the Athens Paralympic Games.In 2005, he appeared in the documentary filmMurderball. And finally, he declares that, paradoxically,this accident was one of the best things that everhappened to him, a tremendous lesson for us all.