Bea Gheorghisor reviews Andrea Raducan’s personal story, The Other Side of the Medal, which was (finally) released in English this month.
This book was initially written and released in 2010 on the 10th year anniversary of Sydney Olympics. It was unexpectedly well received in Romania and because of Andreea’s worldwide notoriety, the book was subsequently translated in English.
Andreea Raducan is one of the most popular gymnasts in history. But despite the fact that she was a gymnasts with great results (five times World Champion, Olympic Gold medalist), and despite her personal charm, her fame is due to the unfortunate event from the Sydney Olympics. There, she was then stripped of the all around gold medal after testing positive for pesudoephedrine, now an allowed substance. Many will believe that there is nothing left to find out about what happened then, especially if you are old enough to remember was written in the press in 2000.
But this is by no means a boring book.
Although the Sydney episode is recounted at length, the book has two narrative threads in alternating chapters: on one hand the story of the Olympics and on the other hand Andreea’s story as a gymnast, from when she started until after retirement.
Many episodes are recounted with honesty and tenderness. But although the hardships are naturally smoothed and softened by the passing of time, Andreea manages to stay away from spurious nostalgia. We find out about how she began practicing gymnastics, about her family and about the transition through the most important stages until becoming a senior. Life at Deva and training under Bellu and Bitang are also recounted in edifying terms.
The story of Sydney Olympics is told in the beginning from the perspective of the athlete, recounting the weeks prior to the start of the competition, the atmosphere inside the team and how competing at the Olympics felt like. Then Andreea becomes the central figure of the controversy. She speaks about the heartbreak and the injustice, losing at times the balanced tone of the other chapters. This helps the reader understand better the emotional charge of the moment and what it was like to be “caught in the middle” in the “world of adults”.
If Andreea received any help writing the book, you will never get this impression. The Other Side of the Medal is so “in line” with how she speaks and behaves in her everyday life that you can almost hear Andreea Raducan’s voice narrating it.
The only downside is that the book is pretty thin. But this should not be confused with lack of substance.
The book helps you understand better, makes you laugh and makes you cry. If you respected Andreea Raducan before, you will like her even more after reading it.
The other Side of the Medal was launched on January 19th in Las Vegas.
Article: Bea Gheorghisor
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