In honor of the Opening Ceremonies tonight I'm writing about Lifetime's docuseries Gold Medal Families.
The 8-part 1-hour each episodes followed 6 Olympic hopefuls (artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, two divers, a swimmer, and a boxer) on their road to Rio (or not). While at times I would have liked a longer focus on individual athletes (each segment compressed a lot of short snippets on different athletes), overall I found the series riveting.
- I love that the series focused on diverse families. We see immigrant families, a single-parent family, a same-sex family. We see only children, an adopted child, a mixed race child. We see families that are quite well off and families that aren't. You get the idea. In short, it shows America.
- I really liked that the show didn't just focus on the "star" children, but also the parents, and *most* importantly the siblings who made sacrifices themselves over the years. Some siblings, like Aly Raisman's brother Brett, seem heavily invested, while her sisters are less so (perhaps a same-sex dynamic at play there). Others train together. All miss out on time and money devoted to the Olympic hopeful, which is important to show.
- While some of the training in certain sports was shown more than others, I really enjoyed that they showed how hard these young people work both "in" their sport and outside of it. For example, the divers weren't just shown diving, but also doing gymnastics-like training using computers and mats outside of the pool. They also showed rehab and weight training for the swimmer, etc. This is one of the explanations for improved Olympic performances overall, so it was nice to see.
- Sadly, but importantly, it also showed those "left behind." Historically the Olympic stories focus on triumph and who makes it. Perhaps because this was about TRIALS it was inevitable that many would be left behind, but it is important to show. It appears most are young in their respective sports and will continue. Check back in four years.
Room for improvement:
- If a second season (or Winter Olympics edition) happens, I would have liked some explanation of how each of the five sports handle Trials. It's clear that some happen much earlier than the Games begin. Why? How does that impact preparation?
- Connected to that is that little context was given overall for how good these athletes were. (Spoiler alert!) Two of the athletes are in Rio, one not surprising at all, given she is a repeat competitor. But how realistic were the chances when only *one* rhythmic gymnast goes, for example, or only 2-4 swimmers in each event. We never get a sense of how many are vying for limited spots and if the featured athletes are contenders, almost sure bets, underdogs, or just getting experience.
For many athletes just making *any* Olympic Trials is a success. And for others, especially those outside the US, just making any Olympic team is a major success. While we will be focused on medal counts, and colors, the next fortnight, its' useful to remember those performances truly are extreme outliers.
Enjoy the Games, and lookout for another possible medal-worthy performance from Aly Raisman's parents!