Generally, when we watch the Olympics we are fascinated by some sports that we do not know and attend very little, but which are highly spectacular. Think, for example, of the popularity that diving, or synchronized swimming, has acquired in recent years. Specialty in which aesthetics is combined with the spirit of sacrifice and in which, at times, the Italians also manage to shine.
However, artistic gymnastics has always had a special charm. In fact, this specialty combines power and grace, muscles and dynamism, with athletes able to leave both professionals and those who know little about it speechless.
Above all, what we love in such a sport is also what’s behind it. The hard training, the sacrifices, and the commitment of the athletes make our side even more fiercely for them. In the hope that many sacrifices will sooner or later be rewarded by a medal.
TV AND CINEMA
Precisely for these peculiarities, in recent years artistic gymnastics has often attracted the attention of the media. Television programs have been created that illustrate the efforts of the athletes, while some champions have become famous and popular. To tell the truth, however, the cinema had discovered this sport for some time. And he had begun to dedicate films to him, sometimes successful, other times less.
If this discipline interests you or, better still, if you practice it, you will probably recognize yourself in the stories of some of the protagonists of those films. Films that today, after having selected five deserving ones, we want to point out.
1. Stick It – Challenge and Conquer
One of the most peculiar things, which often leaves casual observers puzzled, is the way in which the judges evaluate the exercises of the gymnasts. As the commentators explain to us during the Olympics competitions, every wrong gesture involves a penalty, which then affects the final evaluation.
The system sometimes causes the exercises to tend to look alike. And that the value of an athlete depends more on the low number of errors than on the style or innovations that she knows how to put in place.
This particularity is also the central theme of the first film on our list, Stick It . Made in 2006, it was written and directed by Jessica Bendinger, a former model who had recently switched to the typewriter, writing a few years earlier the screenplay for Girls in the Ball, a highly successful film dedicated to the world of cheerleaders.
Stick It, therefore, presents itself as a teen comedy from the start. But it has some elements that allow it to be above average.
A rebellious athlete and her fight against the judges
First, the plot is interesting. The protagonist is not at all the classic good girl who sweats and works hard, but a young rebel. She is a girl who, indeed, has long since abandoned the world of artistic gymnastics, and who is forced to return to it at the behest of a judge, who condemns her to that activity after some acts of vandalism.
In any case, his reintegration is not easy, and he succeeds, in the end, only thanks to the insistence of his coach. But even the races will hold interesting surprises.
The role of the protagonist is entrusted to Missy Peregrym, a former Canadian model seen above all on TV. In those years, in fact, she had been in the cast of Life As We Know It and a guest star of Heroes. An important role in the film was also reserved for veteran Jeff Bridges, in the role of the coach.
2. Gabby’s Big Challenge
It is not easy to recover it, but perhaps you have seen it in some television passage. We are talking about Gabby’s Great Challenge, a biographical film made in America in 2014 with the original title of The Gabby Douglas Story. A film, as is evident, is dedicated to the famous African American gymnast, who was just nineteen at the time.
If you follow artistic gymnastics competitions, you have certainly already heard the name of Gabby Douglas. The girl, born in 1995, began to make herself known at the 2011 World Championships, obtaining the gold medal in the team competition.
The following year, at the London Olympics, he confirmed the team gold but above all he obtained it in the women’s individual, beating the fierce Russian rival Viktorija Komova by a few tenths.
The first African American athlete to win gold
An important result, which is also historic. On that occasion, Douglas became, in fact, the first African American athlete to win the individual competition.
Indeed, the first black athlete, from any nation, to obtain such recognition, in a sport that has often seemed to be the prerogative only of whites. Plus, she was the first American to win those two medals in a single Olympics.
The fame achieved in London led her to write an autobiography, Grace, Gold, and Glory. From this, the film in question was drawn which, despite the limited budget, achieves her goals. Directed by Gregg Champion, the film also stars S. Epatha Merkerson, known for having been in the cast of Law & Order for 19 years (in the role of Lieutenant van Buren).
3. The Strength of the Champion
You may have heard of The Way of the Peace Warrior. It is a novel published in 1980 and written by the American Dan Millman, which had great success all over the world a few years ago.
It is one of those books, partly influenced by the atmosphere of the 70s, whose protagonist makes a journey of spiritual research and introspection that leads him to grow and mature, as well as to dominate his own life. And it so happens that the protagonist in question, in this case, is a gymnast.
From this book comes The Strength of the Champion, the third film on our list. Directed by Victor Salva – a director who otherwise specializes in horror films -, the film was released in 2006 and definitely flopped at the box office.
Costing $ 10 million, it only grossed 4 million and received quite negative criticism. Nonetheless, his fame has grown over time. And, despite some passages not being completely successful, it must be said that the film often pleases and fascinates young people.
When a strange guru changes your life
At the center of the story, as we said, is a young gymnast. His name is actually Dan Millman since the origin story was at least partly autobiographical. The boy has some success and popularity in college, but his life is hollow and empty.
On a morning run, however, he meets a humble but apparently very wise man, whom he renames Socrates. The meetings continue over time and the old man explains his philosophy of life to the young man.
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In the cast of the film, the title role is assigned to Scott Mechlowicz, also seen in EuroTrip and Mean Creek. The most famous actor, however, is Nick Nolte, who plays the role of Socrates. In secondary parts, Paul Wesley also appears, then among the protagonists of The Vampire Diaries, and Amy Smart.
4. For a Perfect Body
We close with two different films than the ones we have discussed so far. Two films that present the other side of the coin, the less bright side of artistic gymnastics and sport in general.
We have said, in fact, that this specialty gives great satisfaction and unrivaled moments of glory, but it also requires sacrifices. Backbreaking workouts, attention to every detail, and almost maniacal care of your body.
Sometimes this manic cure can escalate into something serious. Or at least that’s what he says For a perfect body, another American TV movie launched in the late 90s.
Directed by Douglas Barr and made for NBC, it shows the life of young gymnast Andie Bradley, played by Amy Jo Johnson. The girl is a mid-level gymnast but, after a series of good competitions, she decides to join a gym where she aims high.
Sacrifice and ailments
In fact, coach David Blair wants to train gymnasts who can go to the Olympics. So inside the gym, the competitiveness is very high.
Although Andie makes friends with some girls, she also remains concerned that many, to excel, use chemicals and develop forms of eating disorders. She too is drawn into this vortex but sees her life get worse every day.
We conclude with Nadia, the strangest film of our five, but also the most interesting in its own way. Her title is linked to Nadia Comăneci, the greatest gymnast of all time and perhaps the greatest sportswoman tout court.
In fact, this is a biopic made by American TV when the Romanian gymnast had just finished her prodigious career, in 1984. But – and here is the most relevant peculiarity – it is an unauthorized biography.
As you will remember if you are no longer very young, Comăneci achieved great world fame in the late 1970s. At that stage, she, still very young, won five gold medals in two consecutive editions of the Olympics, in Montreal and Moscow, amazing everyone with her extraordinary skills. This gave her great honors at home, but also a fate that was certainly not enviable.
At that time – and it would have been for many more years – Romania was in fact in the hands of the terrible dictator Ceaușescu.
The Unauthorized Bbiopic
Nicu Ceaușescu, the third child and “dolphin” within the party, became the lover of the very young Nadia. He is an unloving lover, so much so that he talked about abuse and violence. In addition, her regime exploited her in every way for propaganda purposes, including shaping her life and changing her coaches. All this led to various crises, which the Western world only partially perceived.
Nadia, the American film, therefore works on suggestions and third-hand information, but still manages to describe a plausible climate. And to investigate a talent of artistic gymnastics that was undoubtedly unique and unrepeatable.