A group of acclaimed filmmakers is working on a documentary about the Paralympic Games, and among the featured athletes — and executive producers — is five-time U.S. Paralympian Tatyana McFadden.
The film, with the working title “Harder Than You Think,” is aiming for a summer 2020 release, just before the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 begin, according to Deadline, which first reported the story Thursday.
According to Deadline, the documentary will tell the history of the Paralympic Games in addition to sharing the uplifting stories of Paralympians, including McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist in track and field and Nordic skiing.
“You guys!!!!!! I’m so excited!!!!” McFadden wrote on Instagram Thursday. “I’ve had to keep this quiet for a while. We’re making a film (yes you read that right 😁). It is a fantastic that this film will tell the story of the Games from its inception to the current day. But we want it to be much more than a film about sport. It is about the strength of the human spirit. I still can’t believe that I will be one of the executive producers.”
McFadden is hardly the only big name involved in the production. Passion Pictures, which produced the Oscar-winning documentary “One Day in September” about the Palestinian terrorist attack at the Olympic Games Munich 1972, is working with “Love Actually” writer-director Richard Curtis as well as Barbara Broccoli, who has worked on various James Bond films.
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Greg Nugent of HTYT Films, who worked in marketing at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, is also listed as a producer, among others.
“This always felt like one of the greatest stories never told,” Nugent told Deadline. “I first learnt it in 2012 and it became clear that this was a hugely important story. Tokyo will be the biggest Paralympics yet, even bigger than the four billion who watched Rio. We’re exploring exciting distribution options for this film now.”
Born in Russia with spina bifida, leaving her paralyzed below the waist, McFadden lived in an orphanage until age 6, when Deborah McFadden adopted Tatyana and brought her to her home in Maryland. Tatyana became active in sports and eventually qualified for the Paralympic Games Athens 2004 in track and field. Now 30 years old, McFadden is also an accomplished wheelchair marathoner as the only person to win the four major marathons — Boston, London, New York and Chicago — in the same year, a feat she’s accomplished multiple times.
The Paralympic Games began in 1960 as a quadrennial, Olympic-style event for athletes with disabilities, and a winter edition launched in 1976. Since the 1988 Summer Games and 1992 Winter Games, the Olympics and Paralympics have been held one after the other in the same host city.
The Paralympic Games have experienced steady growth in recent years, with 4,400 athletes expected to take part in 540 medal events at next summer’s Tokyo Games. As the Games have grown, so has TV coverage and support for the athletes, with the then-United States Olympic Committee announcing last year that U.S. Paralympians will now receive equal medal payouts to Olympians, and the organization changing its name this summer to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.