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Book review: British women olympians and paralympians past and present

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Penny Hopkins
Olympics editor

In “British Women Olympians and Paralympians Past and Present,”  Mary Honeyball (who is a member of the European parliament) presents sketches of the lives and achievements of 39 women who have represented Britain at an Olympic or Paralympic Games.

There are 15 track and field athletes as well as names from fencing, canoeing, cycling, dressage, swimming, show jumping, diving, hockey, judo and tennis.

It is a thoughtful selection with the more obvious competitors — such as Dame Kelly Holmes and Baronness Tanni Grey-Thompson — alongside those less well remembered such as Dorothy Manley, one of only two British women to have won a medal in the 100 metres.

There are absences too, such as Paula Radcliffe and Mary King.

When asked what her criteria were for making her choices for the book, Ms Honeyball said: “The women I chose had the most inspiring stories (in my opinion).”

She admitted there was scope for additions:

“Definitely once these games are over we will be seeking to add to it with new entries of 2012 greats such as Lizzie Armistead who won a silver medal for team GB earlier this week. Such a great achievement.”

In a largely political foreword, Honeyball says, “This year the Olympic Games will put the importance and significance of inspiring young people firmly back on the agenda.

“It’s an exciting time for London and for our British athletes.  Here we celebrate some of the female athletes past and present who will and have represented Great Britain.  We should be proud of their achievements and support them in this exciting year.”

The book is a good introduction for anyone interested in the subject.  It would benefit from a more extensive introduction, perhaps with a short history of British women’s participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Click here to access the e-book.

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