Check out these inspiring biographies about Olympic athletes and teams—and their supporters—as they worked together, but more often, alone in their heads, to push boundaries through pain and social barriers to win.

Compiled by:
Christine F
1% Better: Reaching My Full Potential and How You Can Too

Chris Nikic & Nik Nikic with Don Yaeger
616.858842 Nik

Chris Nikic wanted to complete the Ironman Triathlon, despite his Down Syndrome. His determination and program allowed Chris to break records in the sport. This book is about how to change behavior in your body and mind so you can focus on one change at a time. 

Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian

Anthony Ervin and Constance Markides
797.2192 Ervin Erv

Anthony Ervin won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, at age 19. His creative life outside of the pool is described visually with excerpts of his journal, intimately detailing his struggle living with Tourette's syndrome.

Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World

Eileen McNamara
921 Shriver Mcn

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist examines the life and times of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, arguing she left behind the Kennedy family’s most profound political legacy. Granted access to never-before-seen private papers, McNamara paints a vivid portrait of a woman both ahead of her time and out of step with the visionary founder of the Special Olympics and a formidable woman whose impact on American society was longer lasting than that of any of the Kennedy men.

Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything

Aly Raisman with Blythe Lawrence
796.4492 Raisman Rai

Enjoy this quick read about a three-time gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast and the team captain of the United States Olympic team. Since she was a little girl, Aly Raisman had always dreamed of going to the Olympics. Things were looking great, until her focus fell; she had to learn the hard way the road through herself would be harder.

Fire On the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women

Roseanne Montillo
796.4292 Robinson Mon

When Betty Robinson assumed the starting position at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, she was participating in what was only her fourth-ever organized track meet. She crossed the finish line as a gold medalist and the fastest woman in the world. This improbable athletic phenom was an ordinary high school student, discovered running for a train in rural Illinois mere months before her Olympic debut. Amsterdam made her a star.

If Gold is Our Destiny: How a Team of Mavericks Came Together for Olympic Glory

Sean P. Murray
796.325 Mur

In the early 1980s, a golden generation of volleyball players joined the United States men’s national team. With the Olympics coming to Los Angeles, California, in 1984, the pressure was on to build a winning program around these exceptional athletes. Could a group of individuals put aside their egos and play as a true team to achieve Olympic gold in their home country?

Indiana University Olympians: From Leroy Samse to Lilly King

David Woods
IND R 796.0922 Woo

From track and field to swimming and diving, and of course basketball and soccer, Indiana University Olympians celebrates over a century of Indiana University Olympic competitors. Beginning in 1904, at the third summer games in St. Louis, Missouri, IU's first Olympic medal went to pole vaulter LeRoy Samse who earned a silver medal. In 2016, swimmer Lilly King rocketed onto the world stage with two gold medals in the 31st Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe

David Maraniss
796.4292 Thorpe Mar

Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. Most famously, he won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm, Sweden, Olympics. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants.

The Watermen: The Birth of American Swimming and One Young Man's Fight to Capture Olympic Gold

Michael Loynd
797.2192 Daniels Loy

Set in the early days of a rapidly changing 20th century, The Watermen—a term used at the time to describe men skilled in water sports—tells an engrossing story of grit, of the growth of a major new sport in which Americans would prevail, and of a young man’s determination to excel.