Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thumbs up - Book Review

Thumbs up
by Elizabeth Manley
MacMillan 1990

This is the story of Canada's darling of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Her name was Elizabeth Manley.

Elizabeth had a hard life in her skating career. She was skating at age 10 and winning competitions at age 14. Her parents divorced when she was young. Liz stayed with her mother who had to make work doubly hard to pay for Elizabeths skating lessons and trips.

Elizabeths father was in the Canadian military and was based in Germany so she did not see much of him. Her older brothers chose to move to Germany with their father so she literally grew up as an only child.

Elizabeth started skating while the family were living in Winnipeg. But she grew up mainly in Trenton Ontario near the Trenton CFB - canadian forces base - where her father was stationed at the time. After her parents divorced, Liz and her mother eventually moved to Carleton in Ottawa while Liz continued to skate.

When Elizabeth was 15, she came second in the Canadian National championships in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1980. She placed in the top 4 positions (except 1st) for the next 4 years until 1985 when she finally won the Canadian National Championships.

In 1982 the decision was made to send Liz to Lake Placid for training before the 1984 Olympics, but this decision turned into a disaster. Latet that year, Elizabeth started losing her hair. The financial committments that her mother had to make to pay for her lessons became stressful. Elizabeth was also putting on weight. She was later diagnosed with depression.

So Elizabeth decided to hang up her skates and for all intents and purposes, she quit. She went into hiding at her mothers apartment and worked on her correspondence lessons in order to graduate from high school. This only lasted for a few months.

Elizbeth never lost her love of skating. In 1983 when she found new skating coaches - Peter and Sonya Dunfield from NYC - she started skating again. The Dunfields had trained Dorothy Hamill, Roslyn Summers and Elaine Zayak.

In 1984 Elizabeth skated at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, However because this was her first time attending such a prestigious event, she spent her time partying with other team members and not doing the required skating practice. In the 1984 Olympics Womens Figure Skating event, Elizabeth ended up in 13th place.

But as her coach told her - I know you are upset by what happened to you at sarajevo, but you must remember that it was NOT a disaster. You finished 13th, which is very respectable for your first time out at the Olympics. This was great praise indeed and Elizabeth had all the incentive she needed to get back into serious training.

At each of the 4 world championship events (84-87) after Sarajevo, Elizabeth improved her placing and slowly crept up from 9th and 8th place to 5th and 4th. Finishing consistently in the top 10 at a world championships is VERY respectable indeed.

Then came 1988. The Calgary Olympics in Canada. All the Pressure was on Katarina Witt (from East Germany) and Debi Thomas (USA). They were both skating to the same music - Carmen. Katarina won the gold on a technically well executed program but with no emotion. Debi lost her nerve while she waited for Elizabeth to finish her program - which means Debi skated badly and ended up in third place.

This was Elizabeth's long program at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Elizabeth won the long program. If Katarina had come 3rd in the long program instead of 2nd, Elizabeth would have won the Gold medal. She ended up winning the silver medal with this program. She came out of nowhere to split the Carmens. The media had been calling this show-down between Debi and Katarina, the Battle of the Carmens. But noone expected a long shot like Elizabeth to completely overshadow them.

Two weeks after the Olympics Elizabeth went out and skated the same program and won a second silver medal at the world championships. Elizabeth then turned professional and spent some time with the Ice Capades.

Skating professionally for eleven years, Elizabeth Manley has experienced every facet of the figure skating and entertainment worlds. Dubbed "Canada's Sweetheart" after winning the silver medal at the 1988 Olympics, she quickly became one of the country's most popular figure skaters, and her first autobiography, Thumbs Up, released in 1989, was a Canadian bestseller.

In her new book, As I Am, Liz takes readers through her tumultuous years as the star of the Ice Capades, including battles with her weight, depression, skating injuries, accusations of substance abuse and her shocking dismissal from a major skating tour. Liz also reveals the story of her obsessive and abusive relationship with one man, focusing as well on the image problems that female skaters face, which often lead to low self-esteem and eating disorders. With startling candour, Liz relates how she hit rock bottom and details her long struggle back to the top of the professional figure skating world, where she now competes and performs alongside an elite few. As I Am is a painfully honest account that will appeal to figure skating fans and women everywhere. The latest book from Elizabeth Manley. I must find it and read it.

I read this book for the second Canadian book Challenge.

Elizabeth Manleys Statistics

Depression - Elizabeth Manley

1 comment:

John Mutford said...

For the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge, I'm hoping to promote an Olympics themed 13. I'll have to keep this one in mind. Thanks!