A for Athlete


Source: http://www.teamusa.org/news/2011/02/25/the-envelope-please-olympians-pick-sports-films/41114?ngb_id=3

Movie in 2010-2011, call “The Fighter,’’ a boxing flick which stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, could become the fourth sports-themed movie to take home the Oscar in Feb 2011.Two of the previous sports films that won Best Picture were about boxing: Sylvester Stallone’s classic, “Rocky,’’ won in 1976, and Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby’’ was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture, in 2004. The other sports film that won Best Picture was “Chariots of Fire,’’ which highlighted two British runners who competed in the Olympic Games in 1924, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, and won the Academy Award in 1981.

Two-time Olympic boxer Rau’shee Warren doesn’t have any plans to join Hollywood’s elite on the red carpet. Instead, he will be focused on competing in the World Series of Boxing event. Not a fan of boxing films in general because he believes they are not realistic, Warren said if he had to pick a favorite it would be “On The Waterfront,’’ in which Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor as an ex-fighter.

Warren, who hails from Cincinnati but is a member of the Los Angeles Matadors boxing team, said he tried to see “The Fighter’’ but hasn’t made it yet.

Even if the Academy doesn’t punch its vote for “The Fighter,’’ there’s a chance another film featuring Olympic athletes could come out on top: “The Social Network.’’ This film focuses on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg but features a storyline involving Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twin brothers who rowed for the United States at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The Winklevoss twins were involved in a lawsuit against Zuckerberg over the creation of Facebook.

Two-time Olympic medalist ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow has the distinction of having gone to Harvard while Zuckerberg and the Winklevosses were also on campus, as was Natalie Portman, who is considered a frontrunner for the Best Actress Award in the movie “Black Swan.’’

“As far as Oscar picks, I love Colin Firth, so I think ‘The King's Speech’ is going to do well,’’ Cahow wrote in an e-mail. “But I went to Harvard when Natalie Portman was there and she was remarkably creepy in ‘Black Swan’ so I think that has strong potential as well.’’

Over the years, the Academy has bestowed honors to several sports-themed movies, several featuring Olympic pursuits: “Seabiscuit,’’ which is a horse racing movie, received seven Academy Award nominations; “Breaking Away’’, a 1979 film about cycling, was nominated for five Oscars and its author won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Mickey Rourke, a retired boxer, was nominated for Best Actor in “The Wrestler.’’

Several top films, including Oscar winners, have focused on Olympic events. “Chariots of Fire’’ is one. Skiers look at “Downhill Racer,’’ which starred Robert Redford and Gene Hackman, as one of the most realistic portrayals of the sport on film. And then there were other films, such as “Cool Runnings,’’ which spotlights the Jamaican bobsled team, but isn’t exactly a documentary.

Of course, we can’t write a piece about sports films and the Olympic Games and not mention “Miracle,’’ the movie that relived one of America’s top Olympic moments — when Herb Brooks led a group of college kids past the Soviet Union and onto the Olympic ice hockey gold medal in Lake Placid in 1980. Several Olympians, including Olympic gold medalist gymnast Nastia Liukin, said this film is tops on her list of sports films.

In fact, she and her Team USA teammates watched “Miracle’’ before competing at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

"I had seen it multiple times before Beijing – all of us had,’’ Liukin said. “But we decided to watch it the night before and it definitely motivated us. When we walking into that arena, we were proud to have USA on our backs.’’

In Beijing, Liukin played a starring role, winning the gold medal in the all-around competition. When she was 14, prior to reaching Olympic fame, she played a smaller role, as she was featured in the gymnastics movie, “Stick It.’’

Another film, “When We Were Kings,’’ features Olympic gold medalist boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. This film won the Academy Award in 1997 as Best Documentary. In 1951, a film titled, “Jim Thorpe-All America’’, tracks the career of Thorpe, the Olympic gold medalist whom King Gustav V of Sweden dubbed “the greatest athlete in the world.’’

And then there are a slew of movies about baseball, which had been an Olympic medal sport from 1992 until 2008, and basketball, which remains on the Olympic docket. Among the classics in those categories are: “The Natural,’’ “Pride of the Yankees,’’ “Hoosiers,’’ and the 1994 documentary, “Hoop Dreams,’’ which many felt was snubbed by not being nominated for an Oscar.

“How can any movie be more inspirational (than Hoosiers)?” asked Curt Tomasevicz, a 2010 Olympic gold medalist in four-man bobsled, in an e-mail. “A small-town, underdog high school basketball team takes on the mean, big-city giants for the state title. When the team's backs are against the wall and no one believes in them, a rebellious coach teaches the team that anything is possible. Even after watching the movie a thousand times, your heart still bursts when Ollie sinks those two free throws!”

Sports that will make their debut in the Olympic program at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games – rugby and golf – already have made their way to the silver screen.

Rugby was the subject of the Clint Eastwood film, “Invictus,’’ which focused on South Africa and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman, who played the role of Nelson Mandela, was nominated for Best Actor, and co-star Matt Damon, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Golf, meanwhile, hasn’t been much of an award winner, but fans are loyal to Chevy Chase and “Caddyshack.’’

One fan of “Invictus’’ is taekwondo Olympic silver medalist and world champion Mark Lopez.

“I love that it entails what a great sports movie is made of, which includes that the antagonist was an underdog team,’’ wrote Lopez in an e-mail. “I like that there were huge obstacles to overcome, and that at the end it was hard work, belief in each other and themselves, and not so much talent, that resulted in them succeeding.

“That alone would make it a great movie but what separates ‘Invictus’ from other sports movies is the historical aspect of it. Nelson Mandela saw that sports and athletes can sometimes have greater impact on people than politicians. In those turbulent times, for a sports team to unite the people was an amazing and inspirational event.’’

And on one of the world’s largest stages, athletes in the Olympic Games often provide similar — and real-life — human drama.

Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. ''Chrös McDougall, of Red Line Editorial, contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.