A Woman's Strength
Meet Cheryl Haworth, the teenage girl who is ranked as the USA's top Olympic weightlifter, out-competing all of her team mates -- both men and women -- on America's official team.
Cheryl has been weightlifting since she was thirteen years old, when she saw weightwatchers at the gym, and wanted to join in. She pursued the sport of her own volition, and by the age of fourteen, she was a world class elite athelete, ready for Olympics challenges. She actually dedicated herself to persistently out-lifting all of her competitors and consistently besting her own records. Cheryl is a sports superstar.
She also stands out in a crowd. She is 5 feet 8 inches in height, and weighs over 300 pounds -- most of which is packed into broad shoulders, massively muscular arms and legs. She doesn't fit into standard women's clothing sizes, needs specially sized and supported furniture and requires more calories per day than most people.
But, despite her unusual size, her focus on her sport and her heavy training schedule, Chery's life is that of a rather typical teenager. She goes to school, studies hard and does well. She does shares daily chores around the house with her sister, and has a good relationship with her loving and supportive parents. She loves to draw and does so very well. She is well liked by her peers. In fact, she has lots of friends and admirers, and manages to spend quality time with them.
But, as she matures into womanhood, and specifically when a serious performance-threatening injury causes her to reflect on her future goals, she begins to realize that some of the physical attributes -- her size, weight and musculature -- that are her prime assets in her pursuit of her sport may actually become quite problematical when she is no longer able to compete. That day is fast approaching. Even if her injuries can be overcome, the clock is ticking on her sustainability as a high power athlete at the top of her game. Cheryl is now faced with trying to fit in with the mainstream society's projection of what women are supposed to look like and how they're supposed to behave.
In profiling Cheryl and chronicling this meaningful period of transition in her life, Strong! explores her growing concerns about how she will cope with life as an ex-weightlifting woman. One of the most pressing issues is whether she'll be able to find and settle into a romance. She's never thought about a love life, never dated, and the prospect of even dressing to attract attention is a bit daunting. Cheryl must also find a career that she can comfortably pursue outside of the world of sports competition and its demanding routine. Her transition into adulthood is extremely challenging.
And, By Extension...
Although Cheryl's circumstances are unique, she's an everywoman in her basic concerns, and her story and struggle is of interest to anyone who has faced body image issues and/or feels challenged by the standard mainstream projections about women's beauty and behavior. Fortunately, Cheryl is, at the film's title suggests, as strong in character as she is physically, and she's a wonderful role model for girls who are maturing, and for women who are still haunted by their girlhood worries about self image.
The film's release is particularly timely because this year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which enabled Cheryl (and other contemporary women athletes)to pursue a career in competitive sports. And, the fact that the Olympics are looming on the horizon, gives this documentary a particularly timely relevance.
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- Director: Julie Wyman
- Theatrical Release Date: July 18, 2012
- Broadcast Premiere: July 26, 2012 on Independent Lens, PBS
- Running Time: 76 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Country: USA
- Location: USA, China, Thailand
- Language: English
- Theatrical Distribution: Tugg
- Broadcast Distribution: ITVS/PBS
- Official Website