‘Tough Girl’ Brings Carolyn Wood’s Swimming Heroics, Life to New Light

Photo Courtesy: Sasquatch Books

By Dan D’Addona.

The life of Carolyn Wood has been a remarkable journey.

It began with a fear of water and transformed into an uplifting road to becoming an Olympic swimmer — not just an Olympic swimmer, but a gold medalist.

But the journey didn’t end there.

The journey continued as Wood realized she was gay, tried to push that away, married a man, started a family, lost custody of a young child, then even later watched as her 30-year marriage crumbled. It was something she pondered when she walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago trail in Europe.

Tough Girl: Lessons in Courage and Heart from Olympic Gold to the Camino de Santiago published by Sasquatch Books is an intimate memoir by the former Olympian.

Wood was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She still lives in her original family home after teaching English for more than 30 years.

“This is a hero’s journey, and Carolyn Wood takes us into the mind and heart of an Olympic gold medalist and her determination to become the best in the world. Throughout her life, Carolyn has aimed to become her best self, to overcome a loss, and to gain new perspectives — ultimately finding a happier way of living. I couldn’t put the book down,” said Lynn Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica.

It is difficult to imagine anything she left out of the book, yet at just over 300 pages it is not too long or even long-winded. Wood allows the reader into the intimate details of her entire life, sparing no emotions.

The story will leave you smiling, laughing, prideful, full of compassion, empathy, pain and on the verge of tears in a matter of moments, depending on how fast you read.

Weaving the story back and forth between her hike on the Camino and other parts of her life could have made it disjointed, but instead was a masterful interlude between major life events, giving the remarkable story a constant grip on the reader.

It is a must read for swimming fans.

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1 comment

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Author: Daniel D'Addona

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Dan D'Addona is the lead college swim writer for Swimming World. He has covered swimming at all levels since 2003, including the NCAA championships, USA nationals, Duel in the Pool and Olympic trials. He is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a graduate of Central Michigan University. He currently lives in Holland, Michigan, where he also is the Sports Editor at The Holland Sentinel.

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