Thoughts on Two Compelling Sports Documentaries
Carolina Marin: I Can Because I Think I Can (2020)
(book version available, too!)
Entering the Rio 2016 tournament as the number one seed, Marin became the first non-Asian player to win an Olympic women's singles gold, and became a Spanish hero. The series picks up in early 2019, after Marin has won her fourth European title and third world championship. Tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in a late January match, her plans for a second Olympic gold are in jeopardy. Carolina Marin looks back at how Marin got started in the sport and made leaps in success with her coach, Fernando Rivas, and follows her as she works to regain competitiveness by the end of the year. As 2020 begins, she is presented with a major new challenge to her focus, as her father has a coma-inducing accident.
Presented in four episodes, Carolina Marin is a reminder of why we root for athletes - their humanity, their struggles, their passion and drive. Marin is a unique champion, and one can't help but root for her as she works to reclaim her top perch in the game. Her on-going story is a prime example of the inspiration Olympic athletes provide.
On the other hand...
Tainted Blood: The Untold Story of the 1984 Olympic Blood Doping Scandal (2017)
The U.S. hadn't won an Olympic cycling medal since Stockholm 1912, and the Los Angeles 1984 Games presented an exciting opportunity to stop the drought. And stop the drought, indeed...the U.S. came away with nine medals across both road and track events.
Turns out, much of the team's overall success came from now-banned blood transfusions. This was brought to light shortly after the Games, but Yesko takes a deep dive into the how and why, interviewing former athletes and team officials on the details. While not strictly prohibited at the time of the Games, the secretive practice of blood transfusions was certainly widely viewed as unethical, and possibly unsafe. How it occurred at the less-than-upfront hands of team leaders is the heart of the Tainted Blood.
It's a depressing reality check on the willingness to find an easy way to success when offered. And, more depressing to know that the problem still exists. Cycling's track record of clean competition remained poor throughout much of the following years, and today, sports of all stripes still face the challenge of ensuring fairness. As a sports fan, I much prefer the world view of hard work-equaling-success that Carolina Marin offers.