In her debut, a New York Times sportswriter explores why a small town in Vermont has become the “perfect incubator for developing the ideal Olympic athlete.”
Norwich has the distinction of being a town in which “one out of every 322 residents is an Olympian.” Crouse examines the story behind this remarkable record of athletic excellence, beginning with a profile of sisters Sunny and Betsy Snite. In the 1950s, their relentlessly competitive father pushed both girls to become ski champions. His “parent-driven medal-or-bust model” drove a permanent wedge between the sisters, made them unhappy, and kept both isolated from members of the Norwich community. The author then examines how more contemporary Norwich families have helped nurture well-adjusted champions. Nonjudgmental parental support allowed Mike Holland and Jeff Hastings to pursue their quirky, sometimes-dangerous passion of ski jumping in the 1970s and ’80s. An emphasis on becoming a well-rounded athlete able to play soccer and run track helped mogul skier Hannah Kearney keep a hypercompetitive drive in check while laying the foundation for the medals she won in 2010 and 2014. Growing up without expectations that he would ever be an athlete, Andrew Wheating was able to find a joy in running that led him to become a member of the U.S. Olympic track and field team in 2008 and 2012. Loving parents and a supportive community helped Winter X Games snowboard champion and Olympic team prospect Kevin Pearce move beyond the traumatic brain injury that ended his career. Crouse’s common-sense findings—that Norwich parents “praise effort, not results” and give their children “ownership of their lives”—all within a tightly knit community that values healthy living—are refreshing. Her book is a reminder that in an age that stresses winning at all costs, the true champions of the Olympic world are those who transition into lives as happy and productive adults.
An inspiring story of a unique town.