SHOWTIME TO PREMIERE "BUD GREENSPAN'S ATHENS 2004: STORIES OF OLYMPIC GLORY"
Famed Sports Storyteller Chronicles Dramatic Stories of Seven World-Class Athletes in Their Quest for Olympic Glory, Premiering Monday, November 7
LOS ANGELES, October 11, 2005 — On Monday, November 7 at 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM (ET/PT), SHOWTIME presents a rare opportunity to relive one of the most dramatic and memorable Olympics in recent history in the original documentary BUD GREENSPAN PRESENTS ATHENS 2004: STORIES OF OLYMPIC GLORY. With behind-the-scenes footage and a poignant narrative, this film presents Greenspan’s signature brand of powerful storytelling set in the ceremonial birth place of the Olympics – Athens, Greece.
Written, produced and directed by Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning sports chronicler Bud Greenspan, this original documentary presents a powerful and emotional look at stories from the 2004 Athens Olympics, held in the shadow of the ancient Parthenon in Greece — within the country that gave birth to the Games in 776 BC and were home to their modern revival in 1896.
As in all of his Olympic films, Greenspan combines rare footage with insightful interviews from athletes, coaches and family members to create personal behind-the-scenes tales of some of the stars of the games. ATHENS 2004 features two Americans: Mariel Zagunis, winner of the first Gold Medal in fencing for the United States in 100 years; and Lisa Fernandez, who led the Women’s Softball team to its third straight Gold Medal in Athens. Also featured are the thrilling stories of 1,500- and 5,000-meter Moroccan track Gold Medalist Hicham El Guerrouj; Greek Weightlifter and national hero, Pyrros Dimas; Australian cycling champions, sisters Anna and Kerrie Meares; and the emotional tale of Polish swimmer, Otylia Jedrzejczak, who auctions her Gold Medal to benefit the children of her country suffering with Leukemia.
The film marks the tenth in a series of official Olympic films by Greenspan and his company, Cappy Productions, Inc. His previous nine Olympic documentaries chronicled the Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney Summer Olympic Games, as well as the Calgary, Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.
MARIEL ZAGUNIS (USA) Fencing
Of the many memorable events in Athens, one event — Women’s Saber — could be described as truly historic; the first time it would be contested in the Olympic Games. Of the four women competing in the semi-finals, two are American: the number one-ranked fencer in the world, 21-year old Sada Jacobson and 19-year-old Mariel Zagunis. As the two prepared for their bouts there would be an additional chance to make history — not since the 1904 St. Louis Games had an American, male or female, won a Gold Medal in fencing. Months earlier, at the World Cup meet in Italy that would determine the U.S. Olympic Team, Zagunis failed to qualify. “It came down to the last bout of the last tournament of the last touch, the last few seconds … it was devastating”, Zagunis recalled. As the highest ranked fencer in the world not competing in the Olympics, Zagunis became the world alternate, in the event that a fencer withdrew from the competition. By luck, a Nigerian fencer drops out, placing Zagunis in the competition. In the Gold Medal bout against Tan Xue of China, Mariel Zagunis would prove impossible to beat and goes on to win the first Gold Medal in Women’s Saber — completing a journey that once seemed impossible. And for the first time in 100 years at the Olympic Games, the national anthem is played for an American fencer.
HICHAM EL GUERROUJ (Morocco) Track
August 24th 2004 — The Athens Olympic Stadium: 80,000 spectators gathered to watch the finals of six events. The last of the evening - the Men’s 1500m - would also be the most anticipated, as Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj attempts to win the one honor that had eluded him for almost a decade … an Olympic Gold Medal. Dominant in the 1,500m for 8-years, the world-record holding El Guerrouj was not expected to do well at the 2004 Olympics. A medal contender in Atlanta and heavy favorite in Sydney 2000, both times El Guerrouj would be denied. Plagued by allergies and respiratory infections months before Athens, he comes to doubt his own ability for a third try. In the most thrilling finish of the Athens Games, El Guerrouj held off Kenya’s Bernard Lagat in an epic duel over the final 100m to take the Gold. The world record holder and world champion collapsed in tears as he crossed the finish line. A few days latter, El Guerrouj caps a remarkable career winning a second Gold Medal in the 5,000m – the first double medal win in the same Olympics in 80 years since the "Flying Finn” Paavo Nurmi in 1924 — equaling one of the greatest achievements in the history of sport.
PYRROS DIMAS (Greece) Weightlifting
Pyrros Dimas, a 32-year-old weightlifter competing in his final Olympic Games in Athens, wanted nothing more than to win a fourth Gold Medal. In 1992, an unknown Dimas sent shock waves through the weight-lifting world taking Gold in Barcelona, as the first Greek weightlifter to medal in over eight decades. Two more Gold Medals followed when Dimas defeated main rival Marc Huster of Germany at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics (83kg). However, in the year leading-up to Athens, Dimas would not be a favorite, as knee problems led to operations and an injured wrist, days before competition, furthered doubts. Despite setbacks Dimas would not give up, he says, “… it took over 100 years to get the Olympics back in my country. No matter what, I wanted to compete, regardless of whether I came in first or last.” Dimas answered his doubters winning the Bronze Medal, to become the most successful weightlifter of all time. In a symbolic gesture of retirement, Dimas removed his shoes leaving the arena. For an emotional home-crowd, saying goodbye to their hero triggered a tribute of cheers lasting over ten minutes, a scene never before witnessed at the Olympic Games.
OTYLIA JEDRZEJCZAK (Poland) Swimming
Twenty-year-old Otylia Jedrzejczak’s emotional story begins with an accomplishment that no other Polish swimmer before her had ever done — winning an Olympic Gold Medal. At the start of the 200m Butterfly, Jedrzejczak, with two Silver Medals already won here in Athens, trailed chief rival Petria Thomas of Australia. Thomas, who only a few days before narrowly defeated Jedrzejczak for the Gold Medal in the 100m Butterfly, is in the lead. With a dramatic finish, Jedrzejczak wins by 31-hundredths of a second ahead of Thomas. Inspired by a book she read before her journey to Athens, about a boy dying of Leukemia told through his letters to God, she returns home and makes a momentous decision. She will auction off her Gold Medal and donates $80,000 for a children’s cancer hospital in Poland. Said Otylia Jedrzejczak, “I do not need to see the Gold Medal to know that I won it, for it will always reside in my heart.” Her heart that all in Poland refer to as: “Otylia’s Heart of Gold.”
ANNA & KERRIE MEARES (Australia) Track Cycling
For as long as they can remember, Australian cycling champions and sisters twelve-months apart, Kerrie and Anna Meares have done everything together. Known for their extreme competitiveness, they developed a healthy rivalry early on, often racing against each other. However, by 2003, after years of looking-up to her older sister, Anna’s racing had dramatically improved as Kerrie’s faltered. After a series of crashes and injured vertebrae, Kerrie would not attempt to make the Australian Women’s Cycling Team. Then, at the 2004 World Championships, a surprise victory for Anna meant she would head to Athens and the sisters would now go separate ways. In the Woman’s 500m time trial, Anna would have to beat the world record holder Jiang Yonghua of China, with a leading time of 34.112 seconds, an Olympic record. With the love and support of Kerrie and friends back home, Anna goes on to win Gold in a world record time of 33.9 seconds, the first woman ever to break the 34 second barrier and Australia’s first female to win an Olympic Gold Medal in track cycling.
LISA FERNANDEZ (USA) Softball
In the Summer 2004 many American women’s teams won Gold in Athens, but, arguably, no team in any Olympic sport was more dominant than USA Softball. Led by 33-year-old Lisa Fernandez on the mound and at the plate, Team USA showed great strength and determination — dominating from beginning to end — to outscore their opponents 51-1 over a nine-game tournament. Driven by the memory of Team USA coach Mike Candrea’s wife, Sue Candrea, who died after suffering a brain aneurysm before the Olympics, Fernandez pitched four winning games, in an overwhelming Olympic performance. This is the story of Lisa Fernandez, the consummate player on the greatest softball team in the world. After more than a decade as the world’s best all-around player Fernandez, who already helped write the story of USA Softball at two previous Olympics, would once again lead 17 teammates in pursuit of a third Gold Medal in Athens. Through intimate interviews with her coach and teammates, like two-time Gold Medalist Dr. Dot Richardson, M.D., the viewer comes to understand a great athlete hardwired to shoot for the toughest goals and achieve them. As an 11-year-old Fernandez dreamed of being a champion player, almost had it vanish after a coach told her that her arms were too short and she would never advance in the fast pitch world. Encouraged by her mother to never listen to the naysayers in life, Fernandez persevered, earning nearly every possible softball recognition over a strong 21-year career run to become a triple-Olympic Gold Medalist.
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