Review by Cheryl Todd, for Women’s Outdoor News

Heroes. Patriots. Conquerors. Champions. These are a few of the names we give to people who we look up to. People who have overcome great adversity, and actually used adversity as a stepping stone to climb ever higher. Often, the mental image we project onto such people is someone larger than life, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and who can run faster than a speeding bullet. Rarely, do we understand and recognize the quiet, yet powerful, strength of perseverance that we find in the example of Vera Koo in her memoir, The Most Unlikely Champion.

Vera’s life story inspires every reader to find within themselves that same can-do, must-do spirit. 

Vera’s life story inspires every reader to find within themselves that same can-do, must-do spirit. 

Vera was born in China, and became a first-generation immigrant to United States when she was 12 years old. She is a wife of nearly 5 decades, a mother of 3 grown children and a grandmother of 4 granddaughters. She is an expert downhill skier, enjoys sports such as water skiing, equestrian, windsurfing, camping and back packing. And, in the late 1990s, at the age of 47, she began her journey of overcoming her fear of firearms to become a World-Champion Competitive Shooter. Vera is the first and only woman in the history of the Bianchi Cup to win 8 of these National Top Woman Titles, plus 2 additional World Titles.

Vera Koo The Most Unlikely Champion cover
The Most Unlikely Champion by Vera Koo

Vera Koo’s ‘The Most Unlikely Champion’

Now, 70-years old, Vera tells us her story of tragedy and triumph. Falling and standing back up again. Traversing cultural and generational differences and divides. And … about how she has been succeeding time and again in male-dominated areas of business and sports. Vera’s quiet grace, fierce will, dedication to seeking, not to dominate others, but always to press toward her own personal best, combined with her faith in God, are how she has become the champion she is, and how she says she has lived out a dream that could only be possible in the United States of America. 

What the book meant to me

As I read Vera’s memoir, The Most Unlikely Champion, I felt a kinship with Vera, and I found myself silently cheering her on, grieving with her and celebrating her many triumphs. With the loss of her child, the fissure in her marriage, the pain of watching as her mother slowly fades away under the fog of dementia, Vera allowed me, and us, to join in her pain, her uncertainty and her grief. And, where many survivors of such struggles might allow us to marvel at his or her own strength, Vera instead directs our attention to her source of strength, God. 

Vera shows us how each struggle took her closer in her relationship with her Savior, Jesus Christ. In my own life, I have found that God will use people and experiences to reveal Himself to me in ways that I cannot otherwise ignore or explain away. He opens doors, closes others and allows unexpected people to speak into my life or circumstances in ways so unique to me that I know it was, and is, God leading, guiding and teaching me. Vera’s life story is rich with such examples, and I could only smile and cry, knowing tears as I read of all the times God allowed her opportunities for her trust in Him to deepen and richen. Not all blessings feel good, but seen through the lens of Christ’s example, Vera was able to grow through both the happy blessings and through painful ones.

Cheryl Todd with her copy of Vera Koo’s book

Finding her faith later in life, Vera, time and again, found herself face-to-face with examples of God speaking to her in ways that she could and would recognize His Voice. In being that vulnerable in explaining her faith journey to us, the public, she once again exhibited the strength of a champion. So often people in the public eye shine the light of victory on their own talents, therefore leaving us impressed, but not inspired, in our own lives. Vera, however, steps back and out of the spotlight and points our eyes on the true author of her successes, and that is God. In doing so, she shows us that each and everyone one of us has the potential to be champions in both little ways and big. 

In an era when many view pain and adversity as their cue to run away and quit, The Most Unlikely Champion offers us an example of the incredible achievements that can be gained by pressing onward. Vera offers us and our young people a life-model to aspire to. She never shies away from any challenge, yet is never boastful about the many accomplishments she has achieved in her life. Instead of being prideful about her successes, she sees each one as an opportunity to learn more about herself, and Vera points to God as the source of her strength that she leans on as she moves ever forward toward victory over each and every obstacle. Vera Koo is not one to sit idle, and I cannot wait to see what this amazing woman conquers next. 

Original review of The Most Unlikely Champion can be found here.


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