By the age of 15, Cheryl Haworth was an American national champion. By 17, she was competing in the Olympics and became the youngest athlete ever to win an Olympic weightlifting medal. Haworth is the subject of the new PBS “Independent Lens” documentary Strong!. Haworth and  filmmaker Julie Wyman joined Only A Game to discuss the film.

Bill’s thoughts on the documentary Strong!:

As a child, Cheryl Haworth was big and strong enough to help one of her friends build a tree house by allowing him to stand on her shoulders.

At 17, she won a bronze medal in weightlifting at the Olympics in Sydney. In the film titled Strong!, she explains that one of the attributes that enabled her to do that was an exceptionally large posterior.

Size is part of the point of Strong!. Cheryl Haworth is enormous. A more significant part of the point of the film is her personality, which is also enormous. It’s also thoroughly engaging. Much of what Haworth has to say about being a weightlifter applies particularly to her extraordinary circumstances: she is celebrated as a champion at the same time that she is ridiculed as a freak.

But Haworth is also exceptionally sensitive to the difference between the life a professional athlete and the life of almost anyone else. She’s simultaneously proud of her many achievements and discouraged because she feels “trapped” in the body she’s had to develop to compete at the highest level.

Strong! is a thoughtful, ambitious film about a grand champion who is more introspective and honest than most professional athletes would ever allow themselves to be.