Jessica Hardy’s Swimming Towards the Gold Lining (2015) is a slim paperback of 144 pages. Other than the cover image (kind of creepy, at least to me, because it looks like Hardy is about to be engulfed by milk), there are no other pictures included. It’s interesting to note that Hardy’s the main author listed on the cover. While an editor has a credit on the inside, I suspect that this means she wrote more of this than typical for an “as told to” autobiography.
As a “swim book,” it naturally begins with Hardy’s rise to elite swimmer—age group to college to pro. And as such, it includes some key race results and tidbits on training, diet, coaching, etc. But the bulk of Swimming Toward the Gold Lining focuses on Hardy’s positive test for a banned substance during the 2008 Olympic Trials and the consequences—several law suits/trials to clear her name as well as coping with the fallout of suspension, suspicion and hurtful attacks from others, financial setback, depression, and more—all while continuing to train for a come back if successfully reinstated.
Much more detail here is revealed about Hardy’s positive test than what was made public in 2008. This is most compelling part of Swimming Towards the Gold Lining, because it’s a rarely seen insider-look at the athlete drug testing process and requirements.
Swimming Toward the Gold Lining is well written and incredibly clear, especially when considering how complicated her story is with highly technical scientific information and multiple legal cases and governing bodies. Furthermore, one has factor the tightrope Hardy must have walked while penning this because there has to be lines decreed in settlements determining what she can or can’t legally discuss, something which forces the one to read between the lines at times.
Another element that sets Hardy’s autobio apart from others is that each chapter concludes with a page or so of encouragement directed at the reader. In these passages, Hardy shares wisdom gained from her experiences, in hopes of encouraging readers to hang in there during any difficult situation, become their best, and to spare us from making similar mistakes.
To sum: Hardy’s positive test for clenbuterol was traced back to tainted recovery shakes. Seemingly, her biggest mistakes as a young pro swimmer were to: 1) Take supplements (in addition to the shakes she also ate bars regularly. Hardy admits that she was perhaps naïve, especially as she knew at the time that the majority of top swimmers avoid all supplements as it’s too risky), and, 2) Falling for the all-too-common fallacy that “if a little of something is good for me, than more is better.” (Hardy doubled up on shakes and bars during the 2008 Trials.)
Swimming Towards the Gold Lining is a quick read that would be of interest to swimmers (and even non-swimmers) of any age because Hardy shows us how a universal human story—how one can successfully and gracefully navigate an incredibly difficult situation (for years) to end up on the other side with renewed passion and forgiveness.
Next week: Stretching – What’s My Deal?