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Monday, December 17, 2007

Book Review: On the Wings of Mercury by Lorraine Moller


On the Wings of Mercury, by Lorraine Mary Moller. Longacre Press. 360 pages. $39.95.

Reviewed by Greg Lautenslager


The 1992 Olympic Marathon culminated on a long, winding hill, called Montjuic, that led to the finish line in the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona. The struggle to the top of that pinnacle mirrors the career of legendary New Zealand runner Lorraine Moller.

In her autobiography, On the Wings of Mercury, Moller doesn’t just detail the facts and figures of her career but takes us inside her mind and her soul to share her life’s journey from her native Putaruru in the Waikato.

Her story is as much a rollercoaster ride as running a marathon and she writes with the charismatic boldness of a front-runner. She explains her incontinence problem as a young child that led to hospital stints and doctors who wondered if she would live through it.

She tells about the rivalry of another great Kiwi runner that provided motivation. She exposes her personal life that included broken engagements, strained and strange relationships, divorce, death, her search for true love and somehow balancing all of these and staying on track for an Olympic medal.

Her journey takes us on a tour of Commonwealth Games, World Cross Country Championships, Olympics, and marathon triumphs in Japan, the United States, Great Britain, and Brazil. We learn about athletes trashing hotel rooms and train compartments, doing drugs, and banning together in the fight for equality and professionalism in distance running. We discover a support system that includes New Zealand running stars and coaches John Davies and Dick Quax, and her father, Gordon, who was her first running partner.

Moller keeps herself and the story flowing with the help of the Roman god Mercury, who appears throughout book. Her races are a battle with her own mind and will as much as with her competitors. Her name for the doubts that creep into her mind throughout the marathon is Ms Rational, who tempts her to settle for silver or bronze or her customary and safe position of fifth-place. She eventually uses an imaginary pink plastic bubble to block such negative thoughts and stands naked before the Greek god Zeus to gain inspiration for a final Olympic championship bid.

Of all the biographies and autobiographies of sports stars it will be hard to find one more compelling, entertaining, and deep as On the Wings of Mercury. Moller has made it to the top of the hill and should be awarded a gold medal for her writing effort. - A
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