Cheryl Haworth, by her teens, was living the type of life that needs to be made into a documentary.
In 2000, the American female weightlifter became the youngest person ever to win an Olympic medal in the sport. She went on to participate in two more Olympic games and was widely considered one of the best athletes in the world, in any sport.
The focus of Strong! (PBS, 9pm), a new documentary by UC Davis professor Julie Wyman, sets up a premise that is fascinating and the type of question that's timely with the 2012 Summer Olympics officially kicking off tomorrow: What becomes of athletes after the Olympics?
For Cheryl, that's a particularly troublesome question.
For her sport, Cheryl has to be huge. She's put on mass - nearly 300 pounds of it. She wears size 12 shoes and she towers over the people around her. Though, you can see in her face that she's just a sweet young girl.
Cheryl, an accomplished and confident athlete becomes a shy, nervous, uncertain young woman as she contemplates looking for a regular job after her Olympic career.
Strong!, unfortunately, leaves that entire premise hanging. You need to go online to figure out what's become of Cheryl because this well-made but overly artsy documentary doesn't answer it.
Instead, Strong! tries a bit too hard to be an art film. There are lots of shots of Cheryl standing in shadow inside her artwork - dark trees. That's not to say Strong! isn't worth watching - it is, and it feels special with the Olympics looming.
What Strong! does best is provide an inside look at the lives of Olympic athletes, far from the glory of medals and televised games, as they spend hours every day for years totally consumed by their sports. That's incredible.
But, for Cheryl, Strong! should be better than it is.