Drama in the Gym

Ivana Hong, poised

A reader asked me about the various inspirations behind Heroes’ Day, and whether or not any of the book’s characters were based on real athletes. Short answer: no. Long answer: sort of. I like writing about underdog heroes, unlikely heroes. Matters of conflicting opinions rather than simple right vs. wrong. Stories like this one, from the Gymblog site, tend to catch my attention:

“They kept telling me that nothing was wrong with my foot,” Ivana said. “I knew what was wrong with it, but I wasn’t going to be like ‘I have a fracture in my foot and I’m not gonna train.’”

Fong discouraged Ivana from seeking medical treatment. Against his wishes, Ivana’s mother took her to a doctor, who confirmed she had a fractured ankle.

With the Olympics looming, Ivana thought she had no choice but to trudge on.

Ivana Hong seems to me (and this has been mentioned elsewhere before) to be something of a fringe athlete, always in the shadows of the other national team members. In that respect, she was a partial inspiration for Monica and Alana in Heroes’ Day. I had a whole subplot regarding the apathetic relationship between Alana Chang and Darren Hades, but it detracted too much from the main plot, and so I took it out—and in doing so I realized that once again an Ivana was being relegated to stand in the shadows.

(Sorry for the melodrama, but there is a reason they call me The Great Exaggerator.)

Then there’s the whole beaten-to-death, but still rampant issue of coaches over-taxing their athletes. It really is a fine line separating self-motivation from self-deprecation when one’s coach knows how to twist his words just right. The junior elites and level 10s are more likely (repeat: likely) to step back when they reach their carefully-monitored limits than are the Olympians, who have all but surrendered themselves to that basic paradoxical equation: sacrifice the self for the self, and glory can be yours.

Alana Chang left Olympus when she reached her limit; Monica Sardinia stuck it out—but who emerged the stronger individual? Perhaps both characters reached the same goal via different routes?

(Flame bait? What flame bait?) ;)