When I was a teenager (lo, those many years ago), I watched a movie on TV called Champions: A Love Story. It was a random Saturday or (probably) Sunday. This was during a time when there were only six or seven channels on the TV and you had so few choices in what to watch that you tended to gravitate to something that had any bit of compelling story. And this (made for TV) movie was compelling enough that it has stayed with me for close to 30 years. I watched it again once more in college, but since then it has been a film that has been on my personal want list. Thanks to Warner Archives (and my buddy Ben) I finally own a copy on DVD, and I just rewatched it to see if it was worth the money.
Worth every cent.
After 1950, there are essentially 3 movies about figure skating that are either known or good. Ice Castles which wears its heart on its sleeve and stars a Bond Girl (Lynn-Holly Johnson). The Cutting Edge, which forever put the term "toe pick" in the heads of those who've seen it. And finally, Champions: A Love Story which has a pretty simple plot - a female figure skater is good, but in order to become great, she has to team up with an ex-hockey player who learns the figure skating ropes. And they fall in love.
Champions is by far the least known of the three films, but as I rewatched it, I was struck by how sophisticated it was for a TV movie that was made in 1979. It's subtitled "A Love Story," and while it's a love story between the two main characters (Carrie and Peter), its also between Peter's parents as they struggle with the cost of his skating, as well as a sudden illness that hits at the wrong time. And even their coach (nicely underplayed by Tony Lo Bianco) has his own love story that intertwines throughout. And what makes the movie work for me is that all these storylines blend together with the skating to make this charming little film.
What I also found interesting, is that in nearly all the reviews I read after watching the movie again, the major final plot point was given away. I'm not going to reveal it here, but suffice to say, it still makes an impact on me, and that's also probably one of the reasons I like the movie as much as I do.