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Book Review: Golden Glow by Dan D’Addona and Kaitlin Sandeno

21 Dec

I’m very lucky that my local Indie bookstore is co-owned by a former swimming reporter. It makes the store a hot spot for swimmers on book tour. I took advantage of such an event to meet Kaitlin Sandeno last summer. 

Cover image via Amazon

Golden Glow by Dan D’Addona and Kaitlin Sandeno

Summary from Amazon:

Kaitlin Sandeno was one of the world’s greatest and most versatile swimmers. Competing at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, she was a part of the world record breaking 4×200-meter relay team and is one of an elite few to medal in three different strokes.

Golden Glow: How Kaitlin Sandeno Achieved Gold in the Pool and in Life recounts Sandeno’s amazing swimming career—including her spectacular Olympic performances—and details the impact she has made in the world outside the pool. Breaking into the Olympics at seventeen years old, she became the face of the team with her enthusiasm and bubbly personality. She returned to the Olympics four years later to have one of the most dominating meets by an American woman in history. But Sandeno’s legacy in the pool is nothing compared to how she has used her platform to help those around her. She is the national spokesperson for the Jessie Rees Foundation and spreads joy around the country to children fighting cancer. She has emceed Olympic trials, hosted multiple shows for USA Swimming, and has given back to her sport, as a coach of youth teams and now as general manager of the International Swimming League’s DC Trident.

Golden Glow is not only the story of how hard work and perseverance led Sandeno to Olympic gold but also how she has used her success in the pool to inspire those around her.

I was excited to get into this book and learn more about Sandeno’s career. She came up right when I started to follow swimming closely so I didn’t know a ton about her and was excited to read more. Sandeno was great to hear speak and I think part of what I enjoyed so much about this book was remembering the excitement she had when she spoke at her event and knowing that the bubbly personality portrayed in the book was 100% genuine.

The characters were all so positively drawn that if I hadn’t met Kaitlin, I might not have believed how energetic she can be. Since meeting her, I believe this was a very accurate depiction of her, her friends, and her family. The way Sandeno was involved in the story, I knew things would be in a positive light but I didn’t find it rang false and I was glad to hear about her family.

Sandeno’s friends played a big part in this book and I was touched by how close she stayed with friends from high school and college swimming. She seemed to be very loyal to them and they cared for each other in a very meaningful way. I envied those friendships.

My friend Sarah, D’Addona, Sandeno, and me, August 2019

I could understand the ups-and-downs of a swimming career as Sandeno described them. While my stages were not as big as hers, I’ve had that rival that you just can’t seem to beat and those time barriers you just can’t seem to break. It was very relatable to me and made me feel better that even Olympians have the same struggles.

The end of Kaitlin’s career wasn’t what she wanted, but she had so much grace to approach it the way she did. I really enjoyed reading that section and seeing how she could leave the sport on her terms and with such dignity. It earned her even more respect in my mind.

I was frustrated with this book at the beginning. Instead of chronologically progressing through Sandeno’s life, it started with her involvement with the Jessie Rees Foundation, a post-career involvement. I thought this was a weird way to begin the book and upon reaching the end, didn’t understand why it didn’t come there. It started the book on a weird foot for me.

Sandeno didn’t win the individual gold that everyone else wanted for her. But the time she achieved was enough for her to feel like she’d won gold. The relay she did win gold on was legendary. Her Golden Glow is how she approaches life in and out of the water. She really does radiate positivity.

Writer’s Takeaway: I wasn’t a huge fan of the structure of this book. There were a lot of long quotes from Sandeno, her friends, family, and coaches. These were linked together with D’Addona’s narrative. Sometimes, this worked well. Other times, it seemed a bit jolting and seemed to stray on- and off-topic. It was good at giving first-hand accounts, but not the easiest to read for a book-length piece.

Overall I enjoyed this but it wasn’t my favorite. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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