Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

First Advisor

Elise Blackwell

Second Advisor

David Bajo


This novel-length work of fiction seeks to explore the world of women’s elite gymnastics and the way it invites glory as much as it invites sacrifice, mental fortitude, physical pain, and suffering. When gymnast Rachel Wallerstein secures four gold medals at the World Championships a year before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, her destiny as an American Olympic hero is preemptively written into the history books. What happens in the gym stays in the gym, but not for long, as the ever-present approach of the Olympics casts light on the cracks in her parents’ seemingly perfect marriage. On the road to Beijing, she encounters pro ice hockey player Kellan, who helps her widen the scope of her one-track world and sees beneath the Olympic veneer that her country idolizes her through. When a knee injury brings a lifetime of training and dedication to a screeching halt, she must decide what is more important to her: her long-term health or her life-long dreams. The American public has high expectations for their women’s gymnastics team going into Beijing – expectations that the U.S. National Team Coordinator expects her gymnasts to not only achieve but exceed. Rachel, her best friend Jamie, and their teammates must decide if winning gold and achieving glory is worth the pain that gets them there. Questions and themes of gender, the body, athleticism, nationalism, sacrifice, sexuality, capitalism, female friendship, media, and family are considered within this novel.


© 2021, Anne Louise Hilenski