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STRONG! cover photo

STRONG! 2012

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Julie Wyman
Directed by Julie Wyman
DVD , color, 88 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Sports, Women’s Studies, Health Sciences

Date Entered: 12/04/2012

Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH

At age 17, 300-pound Cheryl Haworth won the bronze medal in women’s weightlifting at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the first Olympics including competitive women’s weightlifting. As the DVD container notes indicate, filmmaker Julie Wyman was inspired by seeing TV news coverage of Cheryl’s accomplishment to explore the implications of a training regimen developing the body size and strength necessary to become a heavyweight women’s weightlifting champion. Could the personality and achievements of a 5’9” 300-pound woman inspire others to accept and appreciate plus sized women in American society?

Wyman and cinematographer Anne Etheridge follow Haworth as she prepares for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Interviews with family, coaches, teammates and competitors in addition to Haworth herself draw a compelling portrait of a fierce competitor who is “more or less unhappy” in her own body. College and training for Olympic weightlifting leave no place for romance in her life. Though she wins at the 2005 Pan-Am Games, an injury at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in 2007 disturbs her training routine and shakes her confidence for the World Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand, crucial to her making the U.S. Olympic Team.

In addition to learning about the training and mechanics of Olympic weightlifting, the mental and physical obstacles that must be overcome for a gifted athlete to succeed, the filmmaker also allows the viewer to experience society’s bias against plus sized women. Of necessity, Cheryl’s automobile is a full-sized Lincoln, she has to be careful not to sit on most furniture in public places, and off the rack clothing just doesn’t work for Cheryl and her weightlifting teammates. Because she is successful at what she does, Cheryl becomes the most tested U.S. athlete for banned substance use. As she contemplates retirement from active competition, Cheryl is not sure what her future holds other than “tangible freedom” from weightlifting competition.

This video is highly recommended. Cheryl’s story is told with great empathy and artistry. The excellent cinematography includes great sound recording and editing of interviews that took place out in the forest, on the street, in parking lots or moving vehicles, in homes, gyms and training facilities. Extras include commentary by the director, cinematographer and Cheryl Haworth on the collaboration that made the film possible, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes and the official film trailer.