The Rio Olympics are around the corner. Some countries have massive programs that provide support and sponsorship for athletes in many sports. The athletes can devote a major part of their lives to their sport. The U.S. has training facilities and developmental programs that give our athletes every chance at excelling. And we always have a large number of medals. But the Olympics are not always about getting a medal. Sometimes the biggest trial is just getting there in the first place. A Fighting Chance is a short documentary that focuses on four Olympic hopefuls from nations that do not have all the advantages that the U.S. and other large countries have. Yet their dreams are just as big as those of star performer.
The film from Morgan Neville shares some themes with his Oscar winning doc 20 Feet from Stardom, about backup singers in pop music. This film introduces us to Tsepo Mathibelle, a marathon runner from Lesotho. This will be his second Olympics. In 2012 he was the final runner to finish the race, well behind the pack, but refused to give up. We also meet Miller Pata and Linline Matauatu, a beach volleyball team from the small island nation of Vanuatu, and Yenebier Guill?n Benitez, a woman boxer from the Dominican Republic. Tsepo has qualified for the Rio games, Miller and Linline, and Yenebier are still trying to qualify.
All three stories deal with dreams and barriers. These are all people who come from nations without great resources. Even for Yenebier, who comes from a country with a history of boxing, it has always been about men boxers. For all of these athletes, they must do their training while working hard to help their families get by in the day to day, and even in the face of catastrophe. They all have family life that is very important to them. They all also speak of their faith that God has blessed them with their gifts and that they are conscious of God being with them as they strive to get to Rio.
Over a million athletes worldwide train for the Olympics, but only about one percent achieve that goal. These stories are much different than much of what American and Canadian viewers will see on their TVs during the games. In some ways, people like Yenebier, Miller, Linline, and Tsepo are the best examples of the Olympic spirit. When we watch professionals in tennis or basketball this year?or even the swimmers, track stars, or gymnasts who have been carefully groomed and coached and supported by corporate sponsorship, I hope we can remember the many participants from around the world who are there because of their dreams and who have had to struggle in very different ways on the road to Rio.
This film currently is streaming for free on Vimeo, Samsung YouTube, and Amazon Prime.