HBO has acquired and set a premiere date for The Weight of Gold, a feature documentary on the mental health challenges that Olympic athletes often face. All-time medal champ Michael Phelps is among the subjects, along with Shaun White, Bode Miller and others.
The film also features Jeremy Bloom, Lolo Jones, Gracie Gold, Apolo Anton Ohno, Sasha Cohen, David Boudia, Katie Uhlaender and the late Jeret Peterson And Steven Holcomb.
Directed by Brett Rapkin and produced by Podium Pictures in association with Octagon, The Weight of Gold will premiere at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 29 — when the 2020 Tokyo Games were to have been going on before the event was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The docu spotlights Olympic athletes, a group that has long quietly battled its own mental health crisis and now is grappling with the unprecedented postponement of the 2020 Olympics and all its implications. The film seeks to inspire the discussion of mental health, encourage help-seeking behavior, and highlight the need for readily available help and support, HBO said.
The Weight of Gold chronicles the uniqueness of the lives of Olympic athletes, beginning at very young ages, and the demands of their pursuit of the pinnacle in their sports. The rewards are no doubt tremendous, but the mental costs – in the wake of both failure and success – can also very real, as detailed by the stories of some of the most recognizable Olympic names of the last few generations.
For swimming legend Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 individual and team medals — including 23 golds — the film is an extremely personal pursuit. When he came out of retirement for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janiero, it was a way to help conquer the demons of post-Olympic depression that had engulfed him following his previous departure from competition. In the years since, he’s dedicated the next phase of his life to becoming an advocate for the awareness of mental health struggles.
“I believe I have experienced a state of depression after every Olympics I competed in,” he said. “For a long time, I only saw myself as a swimmer, not a person. When I walked off the podium in Rio, I knew many of my teammates and competitors were not aware of, or prepared for – the post-Olympic transition. In sharing our stories, it is my hope that we can encourage others to open up, let them know they are not alone and that it’s OK to not be OK. For me, the opportunity to help break the stigma surrounding mental health and potentially save a life is way more meaningful than any Olympic medal.”
Said helmer Rapkin: “This particular project involved unexpectedly learning about a serious mental health crisis that I was not previously aware of: Post-Olympic depression. The current global health crisis has only brought more urgency to finding ways to reduce the stigma of seeking help and provide excellent mental health resources for not only Olympians but everyone.”
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.