U.S. News & World Report • Aug 19 2016
By Jeffrey Lieberman
It’s been thrilling to watch Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Alison Felix, Michael Phelps and so many other extraordinary athletes compete at this year’s Olympics. But at the same time, it’s sobering to hear about how they were deprived – necessarily – of a normal childhood in order to make it to the highest levels. It’s even more shocking to realize how young they were at the time their parents had to make the “Sophie’s Choice” to commit them to such sporting aspirations. Biles and Ledecky, for example, were 6 years old when they began their respective sports, Phelps started swimming competitively at age 7 and Felix ran her first race at the comparatively advanced age of 12. In doing so, they had to give up the normal social and educational activities of youth for the monastic life of a competitive athlete.