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Former gymnast Kyle Shewfelt's book takes readers onto the floor

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Former gymnast Kyle Shewfelt wanted to take readers of his autobiography onto the floor in Athens so they knew what it felt like to become an Olympic champion.

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But first, he wanted them to know how much it hurts to break both your legs.

So the graphic prologue to Make it Happen centres on the 2007 world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, where Shewfelt is about to land an immensely difficult tumbling run during a training session.

“My legs jammed into the floor with the force of a car crash. The awful thud of bone impacting bone and the sickening crack of my knees hyperextending reverberated straight up my spine and into my brain.”

Shewfelt was the reigning Olympic champ at the time, striving to add the world title to his impressive resume. Instead, he broke both tibias. His recovery became his purpose and he recovered in time for Beijing 2008, his third Games and competitive swan song. His best performances were ninth in vault and 11th in floor exercise.

“One of the things I thought about when I was writing, I won my gold medal in 2004, so my story is an old story,” he said earlier this week from his home in Calgary. “But you know what really pulled me along is this is a compilation of all the greatest lessons that I learned and it’s told through story. I take people somewhere and I tell them a story.”

Shewfelt, now 39, began writing the book in 2010 but lost momentum until 2019, when he committed to finishing a story of triumph over adversity, which includes the fact he was bullied in high school simply because he was a male gymnast.

“When I transitioned out of sport, it wasn’t seamless. There was a very big depression that I fell into, not knowing what my purpose was and where I belonged. I share these stories in the book in hopes that they can help someone who might be able to relate to them and might see that it does get better, and here are some strategies. I didn’t want to write a book that just talked about all my problems.

“I hope in the end my book does impact an athlete, parent or coach in a positive way and I’m already hearing stories that it has so I am already feeling that my mission has been accomplished.”

The book, written in co-operation with Blythe Lawrence, was published in 2020 but launched officially on Wednesday and is available on Amazon.

dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

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