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'College Is A Time To Find Out What You're Really Made Of'
(4 votes, average 4.75 out of 5)

Jonathan Horton has written a book titled “If I Had Known: Life lessons from an Olympic pro athlete.” His passion for gymnastics is evident in his writing.

There are 18 chapters, which serve as Horton’s commandments: Stop Trying to be Cool; Let the Haters Win; Getting Into College; Separate Yourself From the Others; Have Fun Later; Don’t Forget the Basics; Use the Right Fuel; Go to Bed!; Who Do You Want to Be?; Surround Yourself With Greatness; Team First; Go Down Swinging; Make Something Out of Nothing; 1 Percent; Do One More; Take the Shot; The Champion’s Trap; Sports Don’t Last Forever.

Horton said he was repeatedly doubted throughout his career, even though his team won the bronze medal, and he won the silver on high bar at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

There were also low points in Horton’s career. At the 2006 Worlds in Aarhus, Denmark, he had multiple falls, which caused the team to place thirteenth, the lowest finish for the men’s team at a World Championships.

Horton began the sport at age 4. Here’s how he started: “With my parents at Target, I scampered up a 25-foot support beam and made it all the way up to the top … they enrolled me in a gymnastics class.”

Another one of Horton’s mantras was that he wasn’t the most talented kid in the gym, which he made up for with his work ethic.

Horton was convinced he would attend Penn State, but his parents wanted him to attend the University of Oklahoma so they could drive up from Houston to see him compete. Said Horton: “I somewhat reluctantly chose Oklahoma. Best. Decision. Ever. …College is a time to find out what you’re really made of.”

The Final Thoughts Chapter was sobering. Horton was human, after all. “When I finished gymnastics, I had zero income, no health insurance, and I was married with two children,” he said. “Not having a plan is one of the most irresponsible things I ever did in my life. I experienced stress and anxiety for several years unlike anything before. I watched the money that I made disappear, and at one point, I was desperate to make something work.”

Throughout the book his candor is admirable. There are a few factual mistakes, however. Horton said Blaine Wilson won four national titles (he won five). And in the following paragraph he said John Roethlisberger won multiple U.S. titles (a little research proved he won four).

At the end of the book Horton said the high bar was 10 feet off the ground (it’s actually 8-1/2). But at 5-1, Horton probably thought it was 10 feet.

Horton packs a lot in 125 pages. “If I had known more when I was younger, I might have been able to side-step some of the painful bumps and bruises along the way. What I have now is the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.”

This book review appears in the January/February 2019 issue of International Gymnast.

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