Chas­ing the Lion

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - NEWS -

When film pro­duc­ers Matthew John­ston and Gra­ham Colby came across Lionel San­ders’ story more than two years ago, they knew they had some­thing ex­cit­ing in front of them. San­ders had just turned pro and was see­ing suc­cess on the lo­cal short course and in­ter­na­tional 70.3 scenes and showed prom­ise as he stepped up to the full dis­tance. His chal­leng­ing past added to the in­ter­est – San­ders was once a drug addict who al­most took his own life, then used run­ning and, even­tu­ally, triathlon to turn his life around and be­come a world-class ath­lete.

John­ston and Colby re­leased the fes­ti­val cut of Chas­ing the Lion, last month. The 17-minute film is cen­tred around San­ders’ race at the 2015 Iron­man 70.3 North Amer­i­can Cham­pi­onship in St. Ge­orge, Utah where he over­came a se­ri­ous deficit after the swim to ride his way through the field and even­tu­ally take the win in his most im­por­tant vic­tory to date. The film touches on San­ders’ rough years, delves into his mind­set as a top ath­lete and shares per­spec­tives from sig­nif­i­cant fig­ures in his life.

One such per­son is elite swim coach Gerry Ro­drigues. The film cap­tures Ro­drigues’ trip to Wind­sor, Ont. from his home in Cal­i­for­nia to meet San­ders for the first time to help him with his swim­ming. A re­mark­able cy­clist and run­ner, San­ders is open about his weak swim skills. After en­list­ing the help of Ro­drigues he has seen steady im­prove­ment in the open wa­ter.

Ro­drigues’ in­sight into San­ders’ swim­ming as it af­fects his per­for­mance in non-draft­ing rac­ing helps the au­di­ence un­der­stand the miss­ing piece to San­ders’ oth­er­wise com­plete pack­age. It’s a cru­cial scene in the film as it un­der­scores how San­ders, an oth­er­wise world-class triath­lete, pours his heart into work­ing on this weak­ness. It’s a par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing scene for triath­letes, who will no doubt en­joy the film, but also for oth­ers in the au­di­ence.

Hear­ing from San­ders’ fa­ther about his strug­gles with drug ad­dic­tion and watch­ing the two em­brace at the fin­ish line in St. Ge­orge pro­vides an­other pow­er­ful story in it­self, one that will draw an au­di­ence beyond the en­durance crowd. It’s a story of hope and per­se­ver­ance and one that speaks to any­one who has had to re­build them­selves from rock bot­tom. In this way, Chas­ing the Lion suc­ceeds in dis­tin­guish­ing it­self from your av­er­age sports doc­u­men­tary, some­thing John­ston says was the goal from the start.

“It’s about get­ting all of us closer to Lionel in a vis­ceral way. I think it takes a moun­tain of courage, hon­esty and hu­mil­ity to re­ally deal with the dark­est parts of your own his­tory on cam­era,” he ex­plains. “Lionel de­liv­ered in spades.”

The pro­duc­ers hope the suc­cess of the fes­ti­val cut will lead to re­sources to turn Chas­ing the Lion into a fea­ture length film, fol­low­ing San­ders over the next few years of his ca­reer as he con­tin­ues to prove him­self as one of the best on the world stage.—cd

RIGHT Lionel San­ders wins Iron­man 70.3 St. Ge­orge, Utah in 2016

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