What makes a champion athlete tick? Nicola Keegan's debut novel answers that question in medal-worthy fashion, shrugging off the sentimentality of the Olympic minibiopic with its muscular prose and its heroine's wryly comic voice. Philomena (Pip) Ash is a Kansas girl whose love of the water "I kick; it moves me, and I feel joy" eventually propels her to stardom. But for all her freakish talent, Pip is a girl we can relate to. She may be amphibious in the pool, but outside it coping with everything from family tragedy to boy trouble to a Catholic school full of oppressive nuns she's gloriously warm-blooded.