Golden Will follows wake of sculler’s bronze medal

Ted Shaw (Star Entertainment Writer) The Windsor Star

June 22, 1996


Getting the story of Silken Laumann on film was an Olympian effort of sweat and smarts.
It made a committed rower of its star and tested the mettle of its producer.
Nancy Anne Sakovich portrays Canadian Olympic rower, Laumann, in the two-hour drama, Golden Will: The Silken Laumann Story, Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CHWI-Channel 16/60 (cable 6). The all-Canadian production was directed by Eric Till and also stars Dylan Neal as Laumann’s husband and fellow Canadian rower, John Wallace, and Kate Trotter as her mother, Romi.
The film is the culmination of a four-year project by Toronto producer, Carol Reynolds, who like thousands of other Canadians watched in amazement four years ago as Silken Laumann won a bronze medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Just 10 weeks before that, Laumann had suffered a potentially career-ending injury to her leg during a competition in Germany. Only sheer determination took her to the Olympics and winning the bronze was a miraculous achievement.
Laumann became an instant hero and inspiration for Canadians.
Golden Will airs on the eve of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where Laumann will go for gold in late-July. It will be her fourth Olympics.
The story of Laumann’s incredible comeback in 1992, Reynolds said, is certainly dramatic. But she admitted it took some convincing to get her to commit to making a film, given all the obstacles in Canada to doing this kind of thing.
More than 80 per cent of the $2.2-million shooting budget of Golden Will had to be raised through private sector financing, because the money wasn’t available from cash-strapped government funding agencies.
Reynolds was up to the task, however. She had spent 16 years at CBC-TV, rising to network program director in 1990. Much of her time was spent piecing together projects like this.
For Golden Will, she also had the help and moral support of Baton Broadcasting System’s Ivan Fecan, her old boss at CBC.
In the end, she said, the nail-biting over raising enough money was worth it.
What sold her on doing a movie was the story of Laumann’s life, not just those remarkable 10 weeks in 1992. Golden Will is about how she had overcome many other hardships to rise to the top of her sport.
“She’s such an intriguing, fascinating person,” said Reynolds.
“Everybody knows about Silken’s athletic abilities. But few know she has a degree in literature, she plays piano like a professional. She was very open and forthcoming about different things in her life, as well.”
Her mother left home when Laumann was a young girl, so she grew up without a female role model. Today, Laumann works with teens from broken homes.
Laumann also stood by rowing mentor and friend, Marlene McBean (portrayed in the film by Susan Hogan), in her battle with cancer.
“She has unbelievable discipline,” said Sakovich, who took the part even though she didn’t think she looked anything like Laumann and she’d never rowed in her life.
She portrays Laumann between 18 and 28.
After about three weeks of intensive training during which Sakovich spent up to eight hours a day on a scull, filming began in the late-fall of 1995.
The frigid waters of south central Ontario filled in for Laumann’s training locations in B.C. and Germany. Then it was off to Elberton, Ga., in November for the scenes of summery Barcelona.
Sakovich was determined not to let numb hands and bone-chilling tumbles into the water break her. After one such fall, she was admitted to hospital with hypothermia.
In a small way, she endured some of Laumann’s obstacles.
“Obstacles can stop you, or you can see them as challenges,” said Sakovich. “I realized how we get bogged down by so many small things in life. Then you meet someone like Silken Laumann and it changes your perspective on everything.”
Sakovich, who was raised in Ottawa but whose parents are from Windsor, cut her waist-length hair and cropped it in the familiar Laumann style to get the role at an audition.
“There’s no pretense at all about Silken,” she said. “She’s the genuine article.”
And despite misgivings, Sakovich is a dedicated rower now and plans to join a club in her adopted hometown of Los Angeles.

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