Review: Strong!

Cheryl Haworth isn't just strong, she was the youngest athlete to win an Olympic weightlifting medal.

The documentary, Strong!, follows Haworth as she recovers from a frightening injury. But what made this story poignant was how weight, femininity and beauty are discussed. 

At one point, Haworth and two other women who weight-lift discuss what it means to larger than average and it was heartbreaking. Haworth recounts that during the 2000 Olympics a man asked her to pose with a cheeseburger. Now imagine me in my living room yelling, "REALLY?!" Haworth and the other women talk about how they are athletes and thus watch what they eat. But at 300 lbs, Haworth looks more fat than strong to most people.

And that conflict between loving her strong body and conforming to society's beauty standards plays out during a shopping trip where Haworth voices her displeasure with even finding clothes in her size. "I find solace knowing I could beat up anyone in this store," she remarks as her friend scours for the elusive size.

Later on in the documentary, Haworth ponders her future career choices, one of which is being in the Coast Guard. Which would require her to lose 110 pounds. This ignites more conversation about Haworth's body image where she admits to wanting to lose weight for vanity's sake. Haworth's struggle against beauty standards seems similar to current USA Olympian Sarah Roble not being valued by companies who usually gobble up young Olympians for endorsement deals.

Strong! is an intriguing peek into women's weightlifting and does a great job at the body image issue. Together this is a documentary well worth your time. It premiered on PBS in late June, so check your local listings for when it will reair in your area or perhaps it still hasn't shown on your local station.

Disclaimer: I received a review DVD of this documentary.