5 Sports Docs to Fuel the Olympic Flame

The Man Who Skied Down Everest

By Pat Mullen

Tonight marks the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang! Canada goes for old as the athletes from the Great White North compete on the world stage and show their stuff in skiing and skating. While movie buffs are arduously training through Oscar season mastering triple axels with I, Tonya and learning the pervasive drug doping by the Russian team via Icarus, which has serious implications for the current games, doc fans need to stay in shape. To keep the pace and stay strong like our athletes, here are five winter sports docs to keep your Olympic flame burning during the games!

The Man Who Skied Down Everest

This 1975 Oscar winner directed by Bruce Nyzik and produced by Budge Crawley is one of three Canadian feature documentaries to scoop an Academy Award. (And was the first sports doc to do so.) The Man Who Skied Down Everest profiles Japanese outdoorsman Yuichiro Miura, who boldly decided to tackle the world’s highest slope. The film observes his dedicated preparations both mental and psychological and accompanies him on a gripping expedition up Everest that saw six Sherpas killed when an avalanche struck the base camp. The money shot of the film, obviously, comes in the white-knuckler of a ride when Miura buckles into his skis, opens his parachute, and tips downward for his fateful ride.

The Rink

Enjoy a leisurely afternoon at the rink in this nostalgic 1962 NFB short by Gilles Carle. The observational doc sees a group of children lace up their skates and glide along the rink as the jazzy music by Claude Léveillée captures the pure joy of the winter past time. This slice of life film is wonderful for its simplicity.

The Rink, Gilles Carle, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Jack Rabbit

Witness the extraordinary life of Herman Smith Johannsen, the Norwegian born sportsman who introduced cross-country skiing to Canadians and earned the nickname “Jack Rabbit” from the Cree he reportedly impressed with his skis. Johannsen, who lived to the impressive age of 111, shares his experience and love for the outdoors in this easygoing profile. Narration by Stanley Jackson extols the Jack Rabbit’s legacy as director Bill Brind sees the young-at-heart athlete pass the torch to future generations of skiers—who hopefully will live as long as he did thanks to all the fresh air!

Jack Rabbit, William Brind, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Blades and Brass

As much as POV loves the NFB, they don’t always get it right. This wonderfully ridiculous short doc offers a highlight reel of the Canadian teams in 1967 NHL season and is set for no discernible reason to the music of a Tijuana brass band. Get a mix of hot and cold as blades glide furiously on the ice to the beat of Mexican trumpets and drums. What a delightful plate of Canadian nacho cheese!

Blades and Brass, William Canning, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Beyond the Limits

Finally, from classic games, daredevils, and icons, we finish with a new short doc about two Canadian athletes going for gold in Pyeongchang. The CBC short Beyond the Limits by Syrial Tiar and Audric Cussigh follows figure skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford as they ready for their final shot at an Olympic gold medal. The doc captures the passion and discipline required for training as the pair defies the odds against age and injury in hopes of going out on top and making their country proud. Break a leg at the Games!

(And, as always, we recommend Les raquetteurs.)