The impressive story of a woman who will eventually be duly recognized as a pioneer in disabled athletics.
Reinertsen, whom readers may recognize from her 2006 appearance on The Amazing Race, was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency in her left leg—“a shortened leg bone that’ll never grow.” At age seven, she had part of it amputated so she could use a prosthetic that provided greater mobility. The author—assisted by veteran ghostwriter Goldsher (co-author: Dancing to the Music in My Head: Memoirs of the People’s Idol, 2009, etc.)—credits much of her success to the insistence of her parents, both from Norwegian immigrant families, on treating her like a normal kid. Throughout, her mother is depicted as an endless source of support. Although her father’s abuse and extramarital affair kept the family in therapy for nearly a decade, he provided a modicum of assistance by seeking out Reinertsen’s eventual role model, amputee marathoner Paddy Rossbach, at a race near their home in Long Island. Twelve-year-old Reinertsen marveled at Rossbach’s grace and speed, and saw that a “normal,” fulfilled life was possible for amputees. The author similarly inspires readers with her story, if one can consider her extraordinary experiences normal: world records for above-knee amputee women in the 100- and 200-meter races, the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, multiple academic degrees, the Ironman in Hawaii (she was the first woman to complete it on an artificial leg), interviewing Olympic stars in one of several TV-production gigs and climbing the Great Wall of China on a hit reality show. Though the compelling content occasionally descends into the clichéd prose of many commercial inspirational memoirs—with lazy adjectives like “insane amped-ness” and “moving/amazing/incredible”—Reinertsen’s vulnerability and ebullience have a way of sneaking through in passages about intimacy with her first boyfriend (when should she take the leg off?) and how her emotional Ironman triumph helped heal her family.
A must-read for disabled readers seeking inspiration for their dreams, and will hold the interest—and crush the excuses—of those training for marathons and triathlons.