A New Documentary Quickly Presents Some Olympic Sports Athletes' Turmoil
A Quick Movie Review
It's always good to be acknowledge that athletes in the public eye, even elite Olympic-caliber athletes, are people, too. And that means that, like most people, they can suffer from low points of confidence or depression.
Focused on five Team France athletes - Jérémy Florès (surfing), Camille Lacourt (swimming), Perrine Laffont (freestyle skiing), Valentin Porte (team handball, and of the above 'superheroes' quote), and Ysaora Thibus (fencing) - who, despite tvaried sports and experiences of success, have a commonality of periods of crushing depression. They are, they communally acknowledge and parroting the film's subtitle,, 'as strong as are fragile'.
All five are Olympians, with Laffont and Porte having won gold (Tibus has a Tokyo 2020 team silver). All are candid, commenting to different degrees on their experiences with depression. Whether triggered from unexpected sporting losses (Lacourt) or a struggle to adapt to sudden fame (Laffont), each athlete's performance and outlook has been directly impacted by the struggle to maintain a strong mental health.
Strong's three chapters of "Birth", "Falling", and "Rebirth" offer a common look at each's general rapid rise in prominence, followed by respective challenges to their psyche, and their recoveries that broadly relied upon talking through their struggles and changes in perspective.
While Strong is a refreshingly honest look at top-level Olympians' struggles with mental health - and one in which the five Frenchmen and women serve as representatives of athletes everywhere - I did find the 80 minute run time stretched too thin across five stories to adequately identify steps to recovery.
But that's perhaps nitpicking. In addition to a look at personal struggles, Strong is also worth getting a peek at a selection of athletes not frequently on the radar States-side, particularly team handball and fencing - two sports with considerably higher profile in France than here. That we get to see Porte and Thibus presented with as much depth of success (and despair) as the others serves to remind us of a wider sports world out there, and one that shares within it a commonality of potential mental challenges.