• The Three-Year Swim Club

  • The Untold Story of Maui's Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory
  • By: Julie Checkoway
  • Narrated by: Alex Chadwick
  • Length: 14 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-27-15
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • 4 out of 5 stars (106 ratings)

Regular price: $29.65

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Publisher's Summary

For listeners of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat comes the inspirational, untold story of impoverished children who transformed themselves into world-class swimmers.

In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians.

They faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The children were Japanese-American, were malnourished and barefoot, and had no pool; they trained in the filthy irrigation ditches that snaked down from the mountains into the sugarcane fields. Their future was in those same fields, working alongside their parents in virtual slavery, known not by their names but by numbered tags that hung around their necks. Their teacher, Soichi Sakamoto, was an ordinary man whose swimming ability didn't extend much beyond treading water.

In spite of everything, including the virulent anti-Japanese sentiment of the late 1930s, in their first year the children outraced Olympic athletes twice their size; in their second year, they were national and international champs, shattering American and world records and making headlines from LA to Nazi Germany. In their third year, they'd be declared the greatest swimmers in the world, but they'd also face their greatest obstacle: the dawning of a world war and the cancellation of the games. Still, on the battlefield, they'd become the 20th century's most celebrated heroes, and in 1948 they'd have one last chance for Olympic glory.

They were the Three-Year Swim Club. This is their story.

©2015 Julie Checkoway (P)2015 Hachette Audio

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Bad pronunciations

Interesting book but too many mispronunciations of Hawaiian and Japanese names, places and other words.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story but the Hawaiian words get slaughtered

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The true story of plantation workers' kids from Maui making it to the US swim finals and Olympics is remarkable. Lots of history. Rewarding story.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Three-Year Swim Club?

The story of the coach.

What didn’t you like about Alex Chadwick’s performance?

He did not study the Hawai'ian language and slaughtered words and place names. Listening to that aspect for me was a nightmare.
I have complained before to audible that many of their readers when reading a foreign language have no knowledge and consequently hurt their listeners' ears with mispronunciations.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Mispronounced beyond Recognition

Coming from Hawaii, this would have been a great listen if the narrator hadn't bastardized the pronunciation of the character's names and places in the book. Some of the words were mispronounced so badly that I had to rewind over and over to figure out what or whom the narrator was talking about.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Book to Read!

What made the experience of listening to The Three-Year Swim Club the most enjoyable?

I loved hearing the stories since they were similar to those I heard in HI while I was growing up. But listening to them was painful to my ears so I could only stand to listen in little snips.

Would you be willing to try another one of Alex Chadwick’s performances?

However, how hard he tried, Alex Chadwick mangled many of the Japanese and Hawaiian words. His English pronunciation was fine so he may be a great reader for a book without those foreign words.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story, needed a different reader

Being from Hawai'i and just one generation out from the events in this book, I loved the book. It held me rapt the entire time. The only criticism I have is that the publishers should have chosen a more appropriate reader. The narration was full of mispronunciations that were galling in light of the discrimination the swimmers and coach faced. The reader never even pronounced the name of Soichi Sakamoto correctly.

Beyond that, the story is an important one and Julie Checkoway did a wonderful job of retelling it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 12-02-17

14 Hours And 47 Minutes That Fly By In A Wet Blur!

Okay, so obviously if you're Hawaiian you're going to find the pronunciations slaughtered beyond belief (and Chadwick drops the names/words so casually you think he knows what he's saying...!). I don't know if that's enough to also slaughter the story, but it's gotta be obnoxious.
If you can get past that, this is a fine story that at first I thought needed to be edited some as it chronicles practically EVERYthing within about a ten-year span of time: practices, exercises, swim meets, family lives, etc. But I found that I actually didn't mind it all so much as I cared about the people greatly. And sure you can Google any of it and find results, but The Three-Year Swim Club is written in such an engaging style, it's all quite fascinating.
Don't expect too much of the poverty the kids are born into/live in; that's just the earliest part of the book (and it may be the best part because what Sakamoto does to get things going/keep things going is so clever and creative!). Do expect plenty of things like swim timing and training. (All right, that's my only beef).
Training/exercises are fascinating, swim meets will have you on the edge of your seat, and the kids/young men and women are delightful, even the one young man who was written in as vain and entitled.
This is about kids in hard circumstances, doing what it takes all for a chance to believe in something, to believe in themselves. It's about keeping that faith even while the world around them devolves into chaos and war. It's about second chances and even first and last ones. Mostly, it's about devotion and faith.
I'm glad it wasn't edited any other way.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

terrific

This book brought back many memories and emotions to me, having been involved with swimming for nearly 25 years as a competitor and official begining in the early 50s.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Rooting for the Underdog

If you could sum up The Three-Year Swim Club in three words, what would they be?

Practice Makes Perfect

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Three-Year Swim Club?

Towards the beginning when they had a meet in Honolulu and they actually beat the existing favorites.

What does Alex Chadwick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Great narration, good tone, perfect inflections and pacing.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was in awe of Soichi's commitment and determination to give these kids the chance to rise above their circumstances. I learned a lot about the hardships and slavery surrounding the plantation workers and the rise and fall of the sugar industry in Hawaii.

Any additional comments?

This story needed to be told and Julie Checkoway did a brilliant job of telling it. It has a smooth blend of what it means to become a champion and what can happen to a person when they are not prepared for the limelight. The historical facts support the story in a way that gives the reader a perspective into the decisions of the main characters.I would recommend this book to anyone.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent!

A wonderful story! It is amazing what a difference one person can make in another persons life. I loved that he saw something special in the kids and set out to give them a dream. Well told!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Swimmer or not, great story!

This book could prove to be a bit fact laden for a non swimmer. But to an avid fan of the sport it was extremely interesting. I recognized and know of several of those mentioned. Also very interesting was the background of modern swimming techniques. Great inspirational story for anyone , swimmer or not!