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The Other Olympians : A True Story of Gender, Fascism and the Making of Modern Sport - Michael Waters

The Other Olympians

A True Story of Gender, Fascism and the Making of Modern Sport

By: Michael Waters

Paperback | 18 June 2024

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The story of the early athletes and Olympic bureaucrats who lit the flame for today's culture wars.

In December 1935, Zdenek Koubek, one of the most famous sprinters in European women's sports, declared he was now living as a man. Around the same time, the celebrated British field athlete Mark Weston, also assigned female at birth, announced that he, too, was a man. Periodicals and radio programs across the world carried the news; both became global celebrities. A few decades later, they were all but forgotten. And in the wake of their transitions, what could have been a push toward equality became instead, through a confluence of bureaucracy, war, and sheer happenstance, the exact opposite- the now all-too-familiar panic around trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming athletes.

In The Other Olympians, Michael Waters uncovers, for the first time, the gripping true stories of Koubek, Weston, and other pioneering trans and intersex athletes from their era. With dogged research and cinematic flair, Waters also tracks how International Olympic Committee members ignored Nazi Germany's atrocities in order to pull off the Berlin Games, a partnership that ultimately influenced the IOC's nearly century-long obsession with surveilling and cataloging gender.

Immersive and revelatory, The Other Olympians is a groundbreaking, hidden-in-the-archives marvel, an inspiring call for equality, and an essential contribution toward understanding the contemporary culture wars over gender in sports.

About the Author

Michael Waters has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Wired, Slate, and Vox, among other publications. He was the 2021-2022 New York Public Library Martin Duberman Visiting Scholar in LGBTQ studies and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Industry Reviews
The Other Olympians is a stunning addition to queer and sports history, an inspiring and cinematic account of perseverance, identity, activism, and, ultimately, joy. Michael Waters has achieved what all great historians aim to do: changing our understanding of the present by illuminating the hidden stories of the past. * Eric Cervini, Pulitzer Prize finalist and bestselling author of The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America *

Waters masterfully puts into focus the long-overlooked, yet remarkable stories of a cadre of Olympians who battled for their right to compete on the world's biggest stage as their true selves. A crucial read for anyone interested in the intersection of sports, identity, and social justice. * Neal Bascomb, author of The Perfect Mile *

Michael Waters's account of queer athletes caught up in the global drama of 'Hitler's Olympics', and its overlapping fanaticisms of racial and gender purity, feels as remote as a folk tale and as familiar as today's Title IX battles. This is first-rate history - impressively researched and captivatingly told. * Sam Tanenhaus, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Whittaker Chambers: A Biography *

Deeply researched and evocatively written, Michael Waters's The Other Olympians impressively interweaves the lives of early 20th century trans and gender non-conforming athletes with the history of the modern Olympics, the rise of European mid-century fascism, and our complicated - and often nonsensical - attempts to define and regulate sex, gender, and the multitudinous human body. The Other Olympians adds crucial prehistory to understanding our modern thinking on gender and athletics. * Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer *

A riveting and important work of history. Michael Waters performs an Olympian act of storytelling, using the stories of these extraordinary athletes to explore in brilliant detail the struggle for understanding and equality. The Other Olympians is a book of great originality, deeply researched and beautifully written. * Jonathan Eig, author of King: A Life *

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