Rowing Through is very loosely based on a book called "The Amateurs" by David Halberstam which documents the rowing careers of four American single scullers and their Olympic quest
The film plot surrounds Tiff Wood's training in the run up to the 1980 Olympics (where he would have been a favourite to win gold) and his reaction at being told the US squad would not be going. The main part of the film focuses on his attempts to make it to the 1984 Olympics and the impact on his training and performace from being that little bit older .
After his attempts to get the single slot are ruined by an inattentive stake boat boy, Tiff turns to the crew boats and tries for the double.
The uplifting moral of the movie (intoned over a soaring Chariots Of Fire-style soundtrack): "None of these guys went to the Olympics. But that trial has become the stuff of legend!"
The selection for the National Team is the best part, and probably the most realistic. Athletes are both fierce competitors and close friends. Coaches are only human. With so many strong personalities brewing, it is difficult to conduct a perfectly scientific selection process. The athletes have devoted their lives and the stakes are very high. It is an
unglamourous side of sport rarely seen by the public
To summarize, it's beautifully shot but the rowing is terrible, it's hard to develop any affection for any of the characters, and the historical facts are skimmed over. Brad Lewis, the only main character in Halberstam's book to win an Olympic gold medal, is mentioned only as "Paul Enquist's partner".
"tiff was a masterpiece of pain, and i had a front row seat"
"nothing better than double scull, not love, not wine, not even sex"
"will you quit comparing me to a fucking boat"
"You're hammering the water, Tiff! That's not rowing, that's killing fish!"
"And he prances away like a stag! Soon he'll need a barf bag!"
"you can't win polar bear - it's not fair"
"I wasn't particularly happy, until i discovered rowing"