By the time of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Bud Greenspan was suffering the effects of Parkinson’s disease, but his team carried on to produce Bud Greenspan Presents Vancouver 2010: Stories of Olympic Glory. Greenspan died ten months later.
The film focuses on six stories. The first is the women’s moguls rivalry between defending Olympic champion Jennifer Heil of Canada and Hannah Kearney of the United States. Narrator Will Lyman reminds us that the previous two times Canada hosted the Olympics, Montréal 1976 and Calgary 1988, Canada failed to win a single gold medal. So, Canada poured $120 million into project Own the Podium to make sure it didn’t happen again. Consequently, there was great pressure on Heil, as her event was held on the first day of competition. But Kearney places first and Heil second.
The segment on pairs figure skating covers both the eventual winners, married couple Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China, and their coach, Yao Bin. Yao had competed at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, finishing in last place. Yao turned to coaching and, 24 years later, two of his pairs won gold and silver medals in Vancouver.
Another segment profiles Canada’s Clara Hughes, one of only five athletes to earn medals at both the Summer Olympics (in road cycling) and the Winter Olympics (in speed skating). In Vancouver, at the age of 37, she wins a bronze medal in the 5,000 meters race. The film also highlights her involvement, like Johann Olav Koss and Joey Cheek, in Right to Play. Hughes says that she wants to be “more than an athlete.”
The section on the United States Nordic combined team begins with a short history of cross-country skiing, including the Nordic nations’ disdain for Alpine skiing as a sport for “the leisure classes.” We are introduced to three team members, who go on to win four of the nine Nordic combined medals awarded at the 2010 Games despite the fact that the U.S. had never before won an Olympic medal in the sport.
Petra Majdič of Slovenia was the two-time defending World Cup champion in the cross-country sprint event. But while warming up before the qualifying race, she slips on a curve and falls three meters into a ditch, landing not on snow, but on rocks. She emerges in great pain. Although she relates her subsequent travails in graphic detail for the film, we hardly need to hear her words because her suffering is alarmingly obvious. She competes in three races and qualifies for the final. After each race, she struggles just to breathe. In the final, she hangs on to earn the bronze medal (her first Olympic medal after eight previous career races). Taken to the hospital, she discovers that she has four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. She tells the camera that the doctors told her to stay in bed and forego the Medal Ceremony. But, with a tube in her lung, she insists and is helped onto the platform. “This is not a bronze medal,” she says. “It’s a gold with diamonds.”
It almost goes without saying that Bud Greenspan Presents Vancouver 2010: Stories of Olympic Glory concludes with the men’s ice hockey final, the most-watched broadcast in the history of Canadian television. The filmmakers give an informative history of ice hockey in Canada, beginning with the first official match in 1875 and including the development of teams across the country for both men and women, some of whom use their long skirts to hide the puck. Canada’s Olympic ice hockey history is reviewed. In Vancouver, the Canadian men struggle through the tournament and then watch as the Canadian women earn their third straight Olympic championship. In the final, the United States comes from behind to tie the game with 24 seconds to play. Canadian star Sidney Crosby then scores in sudden death overtime. Although Canada won a record 14 gold medals at the Vancouver Games, it is a good bet that they would have given up the other 13 just to have this one.