My Way to Olympia: Sport for all

Why do people with a disability – whose daily lives are already full of challenges – take part in sport, and what’s more, at a high level? That is the question that German director Niko von Glasow asks in My Way to Olympia (2013). The documentary, part of the Docs from Around the World collection by Walk This Way, will be viewable in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Great Britain, Ireland, Poland, Turkey and Luxembourg.

In My Way to Olympia,the director, himself disabled (he was born with short arms after in-utero exposure to the sleeping drug thalidomide), meets up with five disabled athletes to try to understand what drives them to participate in sport, an activity he himself detests: Matt Stutzman, the American archer, born without arms; Christiane Reppe, the German amputee swimmer; Aida Dahlen, the Norwegian ping-pong player born without a left forearm or a left leg; the Rwandan volleyball team who were war victims; and Greg Polychronidis, the tetraplegic boccia player from Greece.

My Way to Olympia, which premiered at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, is the director’s second feature film, after Nobody’s Perfect in 2011 (Best Documentary at the German Film Awards), which followed 11 people who, like him, were born disabled because of thalidomide.

“One thing I noticed with a lot of disabled people is that they are extreme,” von Glasow observes during the documentary. Filming with humour and just a little provocation, the director, a sort of Michael Moore of documenting disability, follows the five athletes in their daily lives and training for the 2012 London Paralympic Games, not hesitating to question them about their doubts, their joys, their fears, their disabilities, their private lives and their desire to surpass themselves. “I think another reason I like to do it (this sport) is, well, because it’s nice to be popular,” explains archer Matt Stutzman. “I want to be the best. Who doesn’t want to be the best at what they do?”

A documentary as exceptional as its protagonists, available from 15 May.

den 26 maj 2015, av Cineuropa