Canadians can be painfully reticent about self-promotion or idolizing their own heroes. Had swimmer Mark Spitz hailed from Medicine Hat, Alta., instead of Modesto, Calif., the world might know him only from dusty record books. Two young champion swimmers can walk the streets of any Canadian city—except their home towns of Sudbury, Ont., and Guelph, Ont.—and not be recognized. However, Alex Baumann and Victor Davis may lose their anonymity after the CBC showing of The Fast and the Furious.
The one-hour documentary traces the two swimmers’ successful assaults on international records at the World Championships in Ecuador last August and at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in October. It is a fine TV hour which avoids the blatant publicity of shows like NBC’s The Road to Los Angeles series. But The Fast and the Furious succeeds because of its brilliant color photography (and deft interplay of live tapes of the actual races, slow motion and underwater footage) and the compelling true-life dramas of its stars.
When the swimmers made headlines in Australia after Davis kicked over a chair in front of the Queen, few spectators appreciated Davis’ overwhelming need to win. In Ecuador that will had driven him to a record finish shortly after he missed another by 7/100ths of a second. And few fans realized the turmoil within Baumann, a teenage world champion who had to decide whether to swim despite the pain of a damaged shoulder or risk surgery that might have ended his career.
Their personal triumphs provide gripping television, which is marred only by some minor flaws. Newsreelstyle black-and-white headlines like 11 DAYS TO ECUADOR are jolting and unnecessary. Prerace hotel-room heart-toheart talks between swimmers and coaches are slightly awkward, and a couple of postrace justifications by coaches stilt the film’s momentum. But, for the most part, The Fast and the Furious is as brisk and energetic as its stars, introducing them to an audience that should not be embarrassed to idolize them.
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