September 19, 1988 12:00 PM

Susan Reed entered journalism by way of what she calls an “athletic scholarship to the profession.” Interviewing for a job at the now-defunct Saturday Review in 1979, Susan found there were no openings—but one editor was mightily impressed by the fact that Reed was a nationally ranked squash player. “She asked me if I’d be willing to play on their intermagazine squash team, even though I wouldn’t be on the magazine,” laughs Susan. “A few weeks later she offered me a job.”

Being game for anything (as well as being good at games) is typical of Reed. The 31-year-old senior writer has flown across Alaska in a small plane to do a story on the Iditarod Sled Dog Race (PEOPLE, April 16, 1984) and spent 22 days in the Sahara desert to cover the Paris-to-Dakar road rally (Feb. 18, 1985). For PEOPLE’S special issue on Russia (April 6, 1987), she traveled throughout the Soviet Union, following in the footsteps of her famous granduncle, John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shook the World. Equally arduous, she claims, was tracking down sources in rural Vermont while reporting Michael J. Fox’s New England wedding last July (PEOPLE, Aug. 1, 1988).

Reed’s Olympics preview report, beginning on page 48, is something for which she is particularly well suited. An accomplished competitor herself, Reed teamed up with senior editor Mark Donovan to win New York City’s mixed doubles squash championship in 1987, and she still plays on the national pro circuit. “I know how difficult training is,” she says.

Susan’s appreciation of people from a variety of backgrounds may come from her own multicultural upbringing. The daughter of foreign service officer John Reed and his wife, Helen, a community activist, Susan and her twin sister, Diana, were born in Japan and lived at various times in Thailand and Laos. When the family returned to Washington, D.C., from one tour, Susan and her sister, now a lawyer, tried to bargain when they bought comic books in a neighborhood drugstore. “That’s the way we used to do it in the market in Thailand,” Susan says. But, she adds, “Living abroad makes one very adaptable to new situations, which is always helpful for a reporter.”

A religion major in the class of 1978 at Vassar, Reed also played varsity squash there. After graduation she worked for Saturday Review for three years as an editor and writer and freelanced for various magazines before joining PEOPLE in 1984 as a staff writer. Senior editor Dick Lemon thinks that the secret of Reed’s success is that “she enjoys people and is amused by them. She’s also very honest, and that honesty comes through in her writing,” he says.

Where will Reed be during the Olympics? At home with her two cats in Brooklyn, “glued” to her television. The younger cat, Sophie, is “rooting for Soviet gymnast Dmitri Bilozerchev, who broke his leg in 44 places in 1985,” says Reed. Sophie fell off a roof last year and broke both front legs, Reed explains. “She knows how hard it is to come back from athletic injuries.”

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