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By Jade Ang Jackman
s the nights grow longer and winter drags on, motivation can often dwindle. Heading out into the perpetual greyness of London can feel less than enticing and mustering up the incentive to leave the house can be tough. However, I’ve recently found another antidote to the wintery workout malaise.
As a film director, I was once given some great advice: to immerse myself in the autobiographies of other women. And of late, I have been especially inspired by movement - which has influenced my camera work as well as chosen collaborators.
After discovering that only 4% of all sports media was about women, I felt like the autobiographies of female athletes would be a great place to start to better understand their drive and dedication to the craft. Through the pages, their words became encouraging mantras. Like the personalised chiding of a respected coach, their experiences and insights gave me a little extra fuel as I pushed myself through the last month of the year…maybe they could even make for a good last minute Christmas gift.
Despite being a world champion kick-boxer, Ruqsana’s tone is relatable. From the first page, you are immediately drawn into her reality as she curses while being woken up by a flurry of messages. Her journey from an arranged marriage and overcoming a chronic illness and anxiety, to working her way up to becoming world champion fighter is far from ordinary. In fact, it is remarkable.
Through the pages, you learn how underfunded the UK Muay Thai team is and how Begum works twice, or even three times, as hard to fight. Rather than glorify each up and down, Begum and her co-writer, Sarah Shephard, speak from a place of faith making the book a wonderful guide to hard times almost transcending the sports genre. Instead, the book becomes a universal meditation on hope. It is unsurprising that Begum’s debut novel went on to win William Hill’s sports autobiography of the year and isn’t one to be missed.
Whilst not written by the tennis titan herself, Seeing Serena is an absolute tour-de-force. Intersecting astute match analysis with cultural critique, Marzorati details her return to the court after the birth of her daughter in 2018, at the US Open Final against Naomi Osaka. Here, we note a huge chasm of inequality for female athletes.
For instance, we are brought into her and the public’s concerns over her performance after pregnancy - whilst this also intersects with her identity as a Black woman in the United States, where many women experience complications after birth and more significantly than their white counterparts. From a more detached perspective than other books on this list, the book is a multi-faceted account of an international icon.
Dazzling her audience with a Dior encrusted suit at her recent win against Isela Vera in New York, British-Somali Olympic boxer Ramla Ali has had quite a year. Aside from winning her fourth pro-bout, she released her autobiography with Stormzy’s #Merky Books. Engagingly structured through ten fights, Ali guides her reader through rounds - such as ‘confidence comes and confidence goes’ - while interlacing details of her personal history. Here, her story begins fleeing the civil war in Somalia and what her family gave up when they arrived in the United Kingdom as refugees.
Then, we join her as a young teen who first begins boxing as a way to lose weight. Moving beyond the box-fit classes, she encounters sexism and sexual harassment but works her way up through the National Novice Championships becoming the two-time winner of the National Amateur Championships and winning the Great British Championships. Personally, I found the affirmations on vulnerability, compromise and flexibility wonderfully motivating principles to remember after several years of pandemic induced flux.
These autobiographies by female athletes will supercharge your drive
By Jade Ang Jackman