The Olympics inspire and captivate the world, perhaps more than any other sporting event around. Ask 10 different people why, and you may get wildly different answers, but for many people, the global scale and the very human stories that unfold in the center of the competition play a key part in making them a singular, special event. That we only get a fix of Olympic glory every two years, and only see specific events every four years, probably makes the heart grow fonder, but thankfully, a new documentary featuring arguably the breakout star of the 2012 Summer games in London has arrived to give us a taste of one such great human story during the long wait for the 2016 games in Rio.
Touch the Wall, which recently made its world premiere at the Starz Denver Film Festival, follows swimmers Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce on the road to London. The documentary, which was partially funded via Kickstarter, is of course a chronicle of the Olympic journey and a peek into the lives of two of the best swimmers on the planet, but it’s also a portrait of friendship and family. It immediately reminds viewers why Missy became such a favorite figure, not just for her talent, but for her kindness, modesty and love of the sport. Meanwhile, it hones in on Kara’s story, one that was much less prominent in London, but irrevocably intertwined with Missy’s journey, and every bit as incredible.
Heading into the London games Kara was already a two-time Olympian and multiple medalist seeking a new training partner. She made some major waves in the swimming world when she announced she was headed to Denver to train with Colorado Stars coach Todd Schmitz and a then relatively unknown Missy Franklin. At the time, Franklin was a young upstart, but her breakout and subsequent rise to dominance came after she began training with Kara. Touch the Wall takes us through Missy’s rise, and Kara’s complimentary journey as a veteran looking to make a third Olympic team and help to foster a young talent. Where Missy was still learning and developing, balancing life in high school with global competition, Kara was fighting against the clock and battling to make it back to the Olympics on her own.
As different as their journeys are, it’s clear that Missy and Kara needed each other, each in their own ways. Even knowing the outcome of the London games it is simply incredible to take a deeper look at what it took for each of them to reach that stage. Touch the Wall is an intimate, inspiring slice of life that is as heartwarming as it is enjoyable.