So, at the weekend, I sent this tweet.
Begone vacuous celebrities these adventurous life-grabbing sports stars featured at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival are today’s heroines. #Shaff
— Sports Liberated (@SportsLiberated) April 6, 2014
What prompted such a passionate outburst? The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, that’s what. In particular, three documentaries showcasing amusing, articulate, passionate, game-changing, get-on-and-do-it sportswomen, each with their own story to tell.
First up, I watched Maiden Trip the story of then 13-year-old sailor Laura Dekker battling not only her parents but also her government to be able to try to achieve a childhood dream of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
Granted, the trip was utter brilliant madness but the Dutch government initially suggested Dekker should be made a ward of the court and separated from her family citing ‘child abuse’, until it finally saw sense and put the matter back in the hands of her parents, specifically her father, who told her, ‘You want to do this? Sort it yourself’. So she did, getting sponsors, planning the route and sorting the kit until one day, she’s just ready to go.
What follows is a fabulous journey of self discovery tinged with amusing teenage angst and accompanied by the unfolding family back story, about which you hardly need to be a psychologist to figure out Dekker’s drive. Moving, and fabulous to watch someone so young live life to the beat of her own drum.
Next up, the painful but ultimately liberating story of Karina Hollekim, a former Red-Bull sponsored base jumper, sky diver, ski jumper and all round daredevil whose perfect adventurous life was turned upside down when a parachute failed during a jump leaving her legs smashed to smithereens after a 60mph grounding.
Clearly lucky to be alive, Karina’s father was nevertheless having none of the hospital’s diagnosis that she’d never walk again and moved her out of the environment quick smart. Six years on and numerous operations and painful physio sessions later and Karina feels the need to challenge herself and lay to rest the life she once led in order to move on to the next phase.
So it is in Made of Steel that we see Karina set off on a challenging five-day route through the Alps with weakened nut- and bolted- together legs, physically having to lift her ‘bad’ right leg at points to climb steep inclines, Karina’s painful journey is a self-imposed be all and end all for the former adventure freak.
A phone call to her mum prior to the start of the trek is a lump-in-the-throat moment, her mother institution-bound since a car accident when Karina was four, robbed her of her memory. “I can hear her brighten up when she speaks to me,” says Karina despite knowing that by the following day her mum would have forgotten it all.
We want Half the Road demand the women cyclists in the final film, which focuses on the inequality between men and women’s road racing. The passionate women who dominate the film are the same ones who set up a petition via Change.org to force the issue of a women’s Tour de France.
With 92,000 signatures in just a few days after the film was released, the women have been given one leg, ‘La Course’ as part of the women’s tour, on the iconic Champs Elysee on the final day of the men’s tour.
A start but the mouth agape moments throughout the film include the fact there did used to be a women’s Tour; women were previously not allowed to run more than 800 metres in case their uterus fell out; and one suggestion put forward by the international cycling committee, only recently, is that women should not be allowed to compete when they’re menstruating. ‘What are you going to do, check all our pants?’ blasts one of the cyclists.
To this day there’s still a clause to say that women cannot race over the age of 28. The very best of incredulous, inspiring, amusing, intelligent, and talented sportswomen encompassed in one documentary.
These stories are the ones that prompted my tweet. Enough of these magazines with vacuous, talentless souls, famous for doing nothing, being nothing, believing in nothing, changing noting. The women I saw at the weekend were make-up free, glowing, confident, intelligent, passionate women and the more we see of them, the better the world will be.