This summer, espnW will launch a new original series, What Makes Us, comprised of five documentary shorts featuring some of the world’s greatest female athletes and their journeys to become sports icons. The series is produced in collaboration with the sibling directing team, the Mundo Sisters, who previously directed the popular espnW Original Nine for IX Short: Rowdy Ronda Rousey.
As part of ESPN’s comprehensive FIFA Women’s World Cup coverage, three of the films will focus on elite women’s soccer players who will be participating in this summer’s tournament — the USA’s Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe, and Spain’s Verónica Boquete. All three films will debut on espnW.com on Friday, May 29, on the eve of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s final send-off match (Saturday, May 30, 3 p.m, ESPN). In addition, the Leroux film, What Makes Us: SYD, will air during that day’s 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter.
The other two films – What Makes Us: RISS and What Makes Us: KNIGHTER, featuring world champion surfer Carissa Moore and U.S. Olympic hockey star Hilary Knight, respectively – will premiere later this summer on espnW.com, with RISS debuting Monday, Aug. 3, and KNIGHTER on a date to be determined.
Each short, ranging in length from 12 – 16 minutes, is an intimate portrait that illustrates how the athlete’s journey began, the struggles they overcame to achieve their dreams and the ways they hope to inspire the next generation. The five competitors highlighted in this groundbreaking series are changing the perception of what young women can do and, in the process, are becoming modern day heroines.
“There is a fire that drives the greatest athletes from within,” said Alison Overholt, editor-in-chief, espnW. “Discovering and sharing the stories of where that drive originates – what experiences have forged these women into the champions they are today – is the beauty of the series. And it is a great privilege, in a World Cup year, to share three of these films focused on soccer stars who we will all be watching with great anticipation during the tournament. We’re thrilled to debut them on the eve of the USWNT’s sendoff game.”
Co-director Rena Mundo Croshere added, “What Makes Us is a series about heroes and underdogs, about struggle and triumph. We wanted to portray these amazing female athletes in an epic and cinematic way because we believe that how we depict women in media influences what women believe is possible for themselves.”
What Makes Us Summaries:
Dual U.S.-Canadian national Sydney Leroux stands out for her glamorous looks, prominent tattoos and her brilliant soccer playing. At 14, she was a budding soccer phenom in Canada, but left to pursue her dream of playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She spent her high school years in mostly white Scottsdale, Ariz., where she had few friends and felt she didn’t fit in. Soccer was her only outlet, and she quickly excelled, drawing the attention of coaches around the country. Leroux was recruited to play with the UCLA Bruins at 18, and in 2011, she made the USWNT Olympic team as its youngest player. In SYD, we learn about Leroux’s struggle to find her identity, the thrill of her first Olympic goal and how she is inspiring a new generation of girls who see themselves in her.
Megan Rapinoe’s precise pass to Abby Wambach in the 122nd minute of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals against Brazil is a defining moment in women’s soccer. Not only did it lead to an American win, sending the U.S. team to the semifinals, but it raised the profile of the sport. Rapinoe started playing soccer as a young tomboy on all-boys teams. Her talent blossomed, and by the time she finished high school she was being recruited all over the country. In PINOE, the U.S. midfielder describes her path to the Women’s World Cup and that famous quarterfinal game. In an intimate scene, she also reveals her decision to come out publicly, becoming both a role model for girl soccer players and LGBT youth everywhere.
As a child, Verónica “Vero” Boquete would train all week with the boys’ soccer team, but a rule in her Spanish hometown outlawed girls from playing in the games. From a young age, it was clear that she had what it took to be great, but without a professional women’s league in Spain, she was forced to move abroad to pursue her dream. After international success, Boquete returned to Spain to help the Spanish Women’s National Team qualify for the UEFA Women’s EURO, Europe’s biggest soccer tournament. In VERO, Boquete describes her struggle growing up in a country that didn’t accept women’s soccer, the events of that historic game, and how she’s become a role model for young girls in Spain.
What Makes Us: RISS (Carissa Moore)
Debuts Monday, Aug. 3, on espnW.com
Carissa Moore’s dad pushed her onto her first wave when she was only four years old, and she’s since been on a path to becoming the world’s top female surfer. When she was still an amateur, older surfers on the World Tour started watching videos of the nine-year-old Moore, studying her moves, knowing she’d soon be their competition. Sure enough, in 2011, at 18, Moore became the youngest world champion, male or female. But after her first World Title, she faced unexpected criticism – not of her surfing, but of her body. In RISS, Moore describes her journey to victory, how self-doubt and body issues threatened her dreams and how overcoming them and winning her second World Title has helped her inspire the next generation of surfers.
What Makes Us: KNIGHTER (Hilary Knight)
Debut TBD on espnW.com
When Olympic medalist Hilary Knight was five, she told her grandmother she was going to be in the Olympics for hockey. Her grandmother’s response was, “Girls don’t play hockey.” Playing on all-boys teams in the Chicago suburbs was the only option for Knight to pursue her dream. On those teams, she endured harassment, aggression on the ice and snide comments from other parents. She almost gave up. Luckily for the sport, her mother helped her get through the bullying. Knight went on to become the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey team and is considered one of the greatest female ice hockey players in the world. In KNIGHTER, she describes the obstacles she overcame, how the Gold Medal Game in Sochi changed the public’s view of women’s ice hockey, and her quest to help young girls feel confident to play the sport they love.