Often the unknown characteristics of athletes are not known as the results of the athlete is all that matters. Gail Devers is remembers for stumbling on the hurdle of ‘her event’, and surprising others on the flat with Olympic gold. Less is remembered about her battle with Graves’ disease. David Porter, combined stories other athletes and in this book provided the opportunity to share insights into some athletes, that over time, experienced disease, disability and injury. As the title depicts, “Their Greatest Victory” is a book that draws on the biographies of successful athletes who had to face more than sports in life, and overcome it into victory.
This book is separated into two parts, one that is of medical conditioning; disease and disability; and the other, through external factors; accidents and injury. From a disability perspective, argumentation for bringing these two areas together can be justified when looking at the revised definition of ‘disability’, by the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, “persons with disabilities include those… with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” (United Nations, 2008).
With that in mind, this book is a welcome addition to a sport historian’s library. Even the Routledge Companion to Sports History fails to shed light on disability sports, and this could be related to the vast and complex nature of disability and sport (DePauw & Gavron, 2005). Porter’s stories consistently illustrate how doctors’ and often other athletes’ expectations are that the athlete will no longer participate. What greater authority is there than the word of the medical doctor concerning disabilities or illness? Each of the 24 athletes demonstrates their way to go around their disability or illness and continue to participate in elite level sport. Furthermore, these athletes are not describing the competition in a segregated event such as the Paralympics, but were competing against other world greats (without disabilities).
The style of the books is based on brief synopses, of around 10 pages, covering 24 American athletes celebrated over time through secondary source materials. Each chapter focuses on the athlete’s condition, details on the disability or injury, plentiful facts, stats, and figures about the sporting achievements, turning points in the athlete’s career, as well as some biographical information, quotes, and reports of dealing with the disability or injury in the world of sports. The athletes cover over a hundred years in various sports with the oldest, Dummy Hoy, a deaf-mute baseball player born in 1862, and the youngest,...