Monday, August 12, 2019

DOTTIR :: Katrin Davidsdottir

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

CrossFit combines elements of all sport disciplines with tests borrowed from Navy SEAL training, creating workouts performed by the "world's largest fitness community." The CrossFit Games are the Super Bowl of that community, crowning one man and one woman the "Fittest on Earth." Katrin Davidsdottir has won twice.

Iceland is tops in the world for gender equality and celebrating strong women, despite its patronymic custom (a father's first name prefixes his children's surnames). An athletic competition that values female participation and prizes Viking traits of power and fortitude seems perfectly crafted for Icelandic women, borne out by their dominance since the Games began in 2007. "Thorisdottir, Sigmundsdóttir, and Davidsdottir. One country. Three hundred and thirty thousand inhabitants. Ten podiums. Four Championships. Two silver medals. Four bronze. All Dottirs."

A blend of personal, familial memoir and training chronicle, Dottir follows Davidsdottir's "out of the womb hypercompetitive" path to the champion's podium and her struggle to keep her title in an increasingly challenging contest that airs on ESPN, recently boasting more participants than the population of Iceland.

Rife with CrossFit terminology, Dottir remains inclusive, conveying messages with mass appeal. Davidsdottir trains under the valuable principle "win or learn," freeing her from the mental stigma of failure. Embracing mistakes while pushing her limits facilitates mental toughness when it counts. Davidsdottir also addresses the pressures of society and media, particularly meaningful to youth and girls. Reading Dottir is no guarantee of a gold medal, but its empowering themes reach beyond athletics to everyday life.

STREET SENSE: Judgey McJudgerson wrote this off as just another fitness book, but I was really drawn in by Davidsdottir's story, background, work ethic and principles. I ended up a huge fan and want to visit Iceland more than ever. The 2019 Games were recently held and Davidsdottir finished fourth, with Aussie Tia-Clair Toomey taking the crown. Also, just for a taste, here's one of the workouts, performed for time and while wearing body armor:

1-mile run
100 pull-ups
200 push-ups
300 squats
1-mile run

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: Icelanders believe they are the best at everything. When it comes to the CrossFit Games, it's a matter of fact...One thing is obvious: Icelandic women are worthy of the hype. Despite the fact that only 1 percent of the total women's field is from Iceland, one in four female podium finishers is Icelandic and one in 2.5 female champions is Icelandic. That means we win the CrossFit Games about 160 times more often than you would expect us to win by chance. Those are staggering odds.

COVER NERD SAYS: I liked this cover more in hindsight. Despite my love of clean black-and-white art work, there was something about the angle of this image that was off-putting at first. For some reason, maybe my greater affinity for Davidsdottir, I kind of dig it.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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