Olympics Fun and Games

I’m sure it will come to a surprise to no one who knows I wrote a trilogy set at the Olympics that I am an Olympics superfan. I’m not athletic, but as a teenager, I took swim classes, and used to fantasize I was swimming at the Olympics when my instructor made me swim laps. I was never in the same universe as an elite swimmer, but a girl can dream.

The Elite Athletes series was on a publication schedule meant to coincide with the 2020 Olympics, but then, you know, global pandemic.

So now the 202…1 Olympics are about to start.

I get it if people feel ambivalent this year. Tokyo declaring a state of emergency just before the games are supposed to start because COVID cases are surging in Japan is not great. A series of decisions by the various governing agencies that regulate each sport (the most egregious of which is, IMHO, kicking Sha’Carri Richardson off the US track team for smoking marijuana, which I think we can all agree only enhances your performance at napping and eating snacks) have left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. On the other hand, most of these athletes have been training for years or their whole lives for this moment and there’s a very narrow window during which they can compete at this level, and canceling the Olympics would hurt the athletes. Also, Simone Biles. So my feelings about the Olympics this year are complicated.

But I’ve been preparing some Elite Athletes Bonus Content, so I figured I’d share in case you intend to watch! Keep reading for some games you can play at home and some commentary on the American athletes to watch for.

First, I made an Olympic Bingo Card (PDF) so you can play along as you watch the games this year. This is just good fun. Your prize is a job well done.

Next, I did actually watch the US trials for diving, swimming, track and gymnastics. If you’re interested, here are some things to look out for:

One thing that I thought was really interesting this year was that it felt like a new generation was taking over. A lot of athletes we saw in 2012 and 2016 (or earlier in a few cases) competed at trials but couldn’t keep up with the young up-and-comers. So the diving team, for example, is all newcomers.

Stick the Landing

In swimming, now that Michael Phelps has retired, a whole new generation of swimmers has shown up. Watch for Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Murphy in the men’s events and Katie Ledecky and Regan Smith in the women’s. (The American team is DEEP. Lots of them could win medals, including some teenagers who made the team.)

In track, the favorite in the men’s 100m is Trayvon Bromell. Also look for Michael Norman, Rai Benjamin, Gabby Thomas, and Allyson Felix, who were among my favorites to watch at trials. 

Bonus track material: Hammer thrower Gwen Berry made some headlines for protesting during the anthem, like the media just forgot that US athletes have a long tradition of activism. NBC made a documentary a few years ago (that is actually quite good!) about protests at the 1968 Mexico City games, narrated by Serena Williams. The whole thing is on YouTube (and I think the free part of Peacock, too). Starz also recently produced a documentary called With Drawn Arms about Tommie Smith, who was part of the 1968 protest.

In gymnastics, Simone Biles is, of course, the GOAT. Her second day at the US trials was a little rough, but she is still indisputably the best in the world. On the men’s side, Brody Malone is the US champ and looked great at trials. Yul Muldauer was also fun to watch and consistently good. Sam Mikulak is the old man on the squad (he’s 28 and this is his 3rd Olympics). On the ladies side, I like Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles a lot. (I’ve been watching Jordan all season, and she’s been on FIRE.) Speaking of activist athletes, Mykayla Skinner’s hair at trials reminded me of Vera Caslavska. (See this.)

When I was researching Stick the Landing, I got deep in the gymnastics weeds, including gymnastics history. I don’t want to take anything away from athletes of the past, but Simone Biles is just on a different planet from, say, Nadia Comaneci or Olga Korbut, you know? On the other hand, there’s Ludmilla Tourischeva, who dismounts as the bars fall apart behind her and doesn’t even react. Badass. (Any excuse to share that clip. It cracks me up every time.)

Above and beyond the general games, gymnastics is also kind of it’s own thing, so make a cocktail and play along with this drinking game I cooked up. 

The Gymnastics Drinking Game:

Take a sip if:
Nastia Liukin mentions Dancing with the Stars
Nastia Liukin wears wears something over the top.  
Tim Daggett says “Gymnastics 101” when referring to a struck landing. 
A male gymnast lets out a Masculine Roar of Triumph after finishing a routine. 
A gymnast wears glasses.
A gymnast talks to a camera right after finishing a routine. 
A gymnast performs a move named after him/herself. (i.e., Simone Biles does a Biles.)
A gymnast over 30 (from any country) competes. 

Finish your drink if:
The American men’s team wins a medal. 
The American women’s wins gold. 
Simone Biles wins All-Around Gold.
Any American gymnast wins an apparatus medal. 

And finally! A little shameless self-promotion. If you got this far, you may be an Olympics fan, so check out the Elite Athletes series! These links go to bookstores so you can own your very own copies in ebook or paperback!

Here Comes the Flood (swimming and diving)
Stick the Landing (gymnastics)
Race for Redemption (track)

New Release: Race for Redemption

Hey sports fans! The third Elite Athletes book is now available!

Sprinter Jason Jones Jr., known around the world as JJ, is America’s hope to take the title of Fastest Man in the World, the champion of the Olympic 100-meter sprint. Two years before, a doping scandal brought his winning streak to a crashing end, and even though he’s been cleared of wrongdoing, he’s finding it hard to escape the damage to his reputation. At the Games in Madrid, no one believes he’s innocent, and officials from the doping agency follow him everywhere. It just fuels JJ’s determination to show them he’s clean and still the fastest man on earth.

If only he wasn’t tempted by foxy hurdler Brandon Stanton, an engineering student and math prodigy who views each race like a complicated equation. His analytical approach helps him win races, and he wants to help JJ do the same. But JJ’s been burned too many times before and doesn’t trust anyone who has all the answers. No matter how sexy and charming JJ finds Brandon, the Olympics is no place for romance. Or is it?

This one is my editor’s favorite in the series, if that influences your decision! You can buy it here.

Race for Redemption up for pre-order!

At some point during the 2016 Olympics, a commentator said something about an athlete using math to improve how he ran a race, and it stuck in my head.

And so I came up with Brandon, a guileless man who is a wizard with math but not great at relating to other humans. He can game out a race from stride length to the number of steps he can take between hurdles in order to win.

And who is the perfect foil for a man like that? JJ, a flashy sprinter with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

Sprinter Jason Jones Jr., known around the world as JJ, is America’s hope to take the title of Fastest Man in the World, the champion of the Olympic 100-meter sprint. Two years before, a doping scandal brought his winning streak to a crashing end, and even though he’s been cleared of wrongdoing, he’s finding it hard to escape the damage to his reputation. At the Games in Madrid, no one believes he’s innocent, and officials from the doping agency follow him everywhere.

It just fuels JJ’s determination to show them he’s clean and still the fastest man on earth.

If only he wasn’t tempted by foxy hurdler Brandon Stanton, an engineering student and math prodigy who views each race like a complicated equation. His analytical approach helps him win races, and he wants to help JJ do the same. But JJ’s been burned too many times before and doesn’t trust anyone who has all the answers. No matter how sexy and charming JJ finds Brandon, the Olympics is no place for romance. Or is it?

Pre-order the book now! It hits shelves October 20, 2020!

New Release! Elite Athletes 1: Here Comes the Flood

The Flood has arrived!

At the Summer Olympics, a swimmer who hit rock bottom meets a diver who hates the spotlight. There’s sports, there’s romance, there’s tabloid scandal. Get Here Comes the Flood now! (This link goes to retailers selling the ebook. Paperbacks are coming one month from now, on May 26!)

This series has been a long time coming. It seems like a million years ago now, but I moved in the summer of 2016, and the process was so stressful that I didn’t really write anything for a couple of months. But I have always been a huge fan of the Olympics, so I spent that July distracting myself by consuming all of the Olympics-related media possible. (I’m working on a Special Features post that will delve into that more. There shall be book recs and videos! Stay tuned!)

Then one morning in August, the day after the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Games, I woke up with the book idea fully formed in my head. I literally got out of bed, walked across my apartment, sat at my desk, and wrote out the whole plot. I wrote the first draft over about three weeks, most of that time with sports on in the background.

That book went through revisions and beta reads and edits, of course, but I was so excited about the idea while I was writing the first draft that I teased it on social media at the time. And I’m still excited now! The 2020 Olympics may be postponed, but this book is finally out in the world.

And two more are coming!

Book 2, Stick the Landing, is about a brilliant gymnast who tends to choke in big competitions. He meets a retired figure skater who is at the Olympics to do puff pieces for the American TV network, and he knows a thing or two about choking. The pre-order for ebooks should be up at your favorite retailer any day now, but the paperback is up on Amazon now. (The ebook will be out July 28. The paperback will be out in October.)

Book 3, Race for Redemption, is about track runners. One is a flashy sprinter trying to repair a tarnished reputation, the other is an engineering student who uses math to make his hurdles races better. They’re total opposites, but also meant for each other obviously. I believe that book will be out this fall.

I really love this series and I’m excited for it to be out in the world. I hope you guys love it, too!