The 2012 Summer Olympic Games have come and gone. I don't usually watch much of the Games when they come on television every four years, but I did enjoy the London Games. Because I never made a big habit of watching the Olympics in the past, I didn't know who Amanda Beard was when I saw her on the Dr. Phil show several weeks ago. She was on Dr. Phil because aside from being an Olympic champion, Amanda Beard also dabbled a bit in illegal drug use, suffered from eating disorders, engaged in cutting, and suffered from depression. I wanted to know how this beautiful, successful, athletic woman could be dealing with so many serious emotional issues. Since I love a good memoir, I picked up and read Olympic champion swimmer Amanda Beard's 2012 book, In the Water They Can't See You Cry.
Who is Amanda Beard?
Amanda Beard first made a splash as an Olympic swimmer for the United States at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. She was just 14 years old at the time and won one gold and two silver medals. Beard went on to swim for the United States at the 2000 Games in Sydney, where she won a bronze medal, the 2004 Games in Athens, where she won a gold and two silver medals, and at the 2008 Games in Beijing, where she failed to reach the semifinals and didn't medal. Her bid to join the 2012 Olympic team failed.
Beard, who was born October 29, 1981, grew up in Irvine, California, where she displayed her enormous athletic talents at a very early age. Her parents divorced when she was still young and she lived with her father for a good portion of her childhood because he was better able to support her swimming than her mother was.
Amanda Beard's story
Aside from the story of her swimming career, In the Water They Can't See You Cry details Beard's personal life. She had a long relationship with South African Olympic champion Ryk Neethling, who attended the University of Arizona with her as a swimmer. Beard writes that their relationship was abusive; apparently, Neethling took Beard for granted and introduced her to illegal drugs.
As she grew into a young woman, Beard blossomed into a great beauty. She was a model who appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and endorsed Speedo and Red Bull. Though her athletic build was considered a positive when she was swimming, she was considered heavy for a model. Consequently, she developed an eating disorder and battled depression.
Now at age 30, Amanda Beard is happily married, a vegetarian, and the mother of a little boy named Blaise. Her memoir, In the Water They Can't See You Cry is ultimately her story of battling significant demons and continuing her success beyond the Olympics and a modeling career.
It seems like so many Olympic champions have battled so much more than their competitors to come out on top. I didn't know who Amanda Beard was when I first saw her on Dr. Phil, but I felt like I knew her after I read her story. In the Water They Can't See You Cry is ultimately a positive story written by a champion. That being said, this book is not so much about Amanda Beard the swimming champion as it is about her evolution beyond swimming.
Readers who are hoping to read a lot about her Olympic experiences at four different Games will probably be disappointed. Indeed, Beard sort of implies that she wasn't all that passionate about swimming; it just happened to be something she was extremely good at. She writes that swim meets are pretty boring and, when viewed live, are not at all like what we see on TV. I got the sense that the sport that had once been fun for Amanda Beard eventually turned into a chore.
Beard is also brutally candid about her relationships with men. By her account, the men she was involved with before she met her husband were abusive and controlling. However, readers should keep in mind that they're only getting her side of the story and, perhaps, should take what she writes with a grain of salt.
I suspect some readers might fault Amanda Beard for not appreciating her talents and the good things that came to her thanks to swimming and her good looks. I don't see it quite that way. To me, this book is more a story about how everybody hurts, even people who seem to have it all. I found Beard to be very human through her account and wasn't offended by her somewhat negative take on what, to many people, appears to be a charmed life.
I think Amanda Beard's memoir, In the Water They Can't See You Cry rates four stars. I thought it was well-written and interesting, though readers who are hoping to read about her Olympic experiences might be disappointed. And to those who are distressed that she's not the world's greatest role model, I would say that they've missed Beard's point. Beard is human, just like everyone else. Yes, she's a gifted athlete and gorgeous, but she's also fallible, just like everyone else on the planet. I say, give her a break and don't expect her to be your role model. Be your own hero instead.
For more information: www.amandabeard.net
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