Silken story a TV triumph

Star – Phoenix

June 21,1996


From that deceptively simple childhood setback sprang a well of physical and emotional determination that led to her stupefying comeback at the 1992 Barcelona games.
Now, one month before her much-anticipated appearance at the summer Olympics in Atlanta, Laumann’s life story will be played out for TV audiences across the continent.
“She was disoriented at school, and not comfortable and couldn’t put her vowels together properly and couldn’t write well,” says Carol Reynolds, executive-producer of Golden Will: The Silken Laumann Story, which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Baton Broadcasting System.
“That was when she knew that she had to do something.”
The film, starring Nancy Anne Sakovich, also shows Silken as one of two daughters of strong-willed German immigrants. Her parents squabbled constantly. Her mother in particular comes across as a semi-villain, not always around and obsessed with youthful looks and her own sacrificed artistic career.
“What are you running away from?” a coach asks early in the story before a prophetic leg injury prompted Laumann to switch from track to rowing.
“I considered all the elements; her family, upbringing, her origin,” says Sakovich about Silken’s endless motivation.
“I decided it wouldn’t be any one thing, but definitely a combination of all those things and also something that there is innate in her, that she was simply born with. That will.”
For Sakovich, this is a breakthrough role. Many viewers recognize the face from a recurring part in the Destiny Ridge series.
Sakovich had to cut her long blonde hair and then was given a mere 2 1/2 weeks of exhaustive training to try to at least look like an Olympic rower for the cameras.
“That was what really struck me, the stamina and the endurance they have. It’s phenomenal,” she said.
In a telephone interview from her San Diego training headquarters, Laumann credited the film for portraying the esthetic beauty of her sport. But she conceded that real rowers wouldn’t be fooled.
“There’s no way that within three weeks you can look that close to what I would look like after 12 years.”
Filmed in Ontario and Georgia, Golden Will covers Laumann’s life from age 18 to her triumph at Barcelona. It shows how she was rammed by two rowers during training in Germany and how the muscles in her right leg were so badly torn doctors feared for a time that she might lose the limb.
Reynolds, Sakovich and Laumann all agree the film’s gruesome special effects are pretty accurate. Viewers are shown a leg deeply gashed and bleeding, with the bone protruding from under a loose flap of peeled-back skin. Doctors had to remove 200 wooden splinters from the ripped flesh.
“We couldn’t even look at the photos of the real leg,” says Reynolds.
But 27 days after surgery, Laumann began training again. Battling severe pain, she rowed herself to a bronze medal and into Canadians’ hearts just ten weeks later.
“I don’t think no is in her vocabulary,” says Sakovich.
But Laumann has said yes to the film, albeit with concerns about how her mother will react when she sees it.
“One regret I suppose I have is the emphasis, the negative spin with the family life,” Laumann says.
“It doesn’t show all the support I was also given.”
What they said about her TV film
By The Canadian Press
Some thoughts from those involved in Golden Will: The Silken Laumann Story, which airs on the Baton Broadcasting, Inc. system of stations June 26:
“The story of Silken Laumann is a remarkable one. But what’s also remarkable is the fact that this movie is a prototype. It shows that Canadian resources and talent can come together to tell great Canadian stories the world will want to watch.” Ivan Fecan, executive vice-president of BBS.
“What she has done in her own mind is not extraordinary. She just had a goal. She had a dream and she kept pushing herself forward toward that. And she has been an inspiration for all of us working on the film.” Carol Reynolds, executive-producer.
“Every time I felt over-challenged and tearful and exhausted, I’d remind myself how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to learn the sport of rowing so intensely with one-on-one training, and be paid for it. I mean it doesn’t get any better than that.” actress Nancy Sakovich.
“Overcoming obstacles is something we all have to do to get anywhere in life. I want young people in particular to know that the world class athlete they see performing effortlessly, full of confidence and energy, was once a frightened 15-year-old.” Silken Laumann.


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