Available for free on Rakuten TV Ona Carbonell – Starting Over is an emotional sports documentary following Spanish Olympic synchronised swimmer Ona Carbonell and her attempt to return to elite sport after the birth of her child.
The scene is swiftly set, Ona has a record haul of medals including being the first woman to win 7 medals at the World Championships. We see her give birth and despite the jubilation of having a new baby, the joy is tinged with sadness as she has to withdraw from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo … until that is the global pandemic strikes. As the world is put on hold, so too are the Olympics, but their postponement for a year gives Ona the opportunity to qualify – if she can get back to her elite performance levels.
We follow Ona’s preparation to make the Spanish Olympic team as she goes through rehab after her pregnancy to get back in shape. The filming begins with her in the hospitals, health clinics and physios before she can even dip a toe back into the swimming pool and the high performance centre in Barcelona. After a lifetime dedicated to the sport, making the Olympic team is one thing but making the Olympic team after giving birth and whilst breastfeeding is something even Ona may struggle to do. The sleepless nights aren’t helping as she pushes to regain her fitness but it is clear to see she has lost none of her agility.
Did I mention breastfeeding? There is a lot of breastfeeding and breast pumping and if she’s not doing it she’s talking about it, so much so there could be a separate documentary on her lactating bosoms. This of course is largely what the documentary aims to show, the practicalities involved. Is it possible for a woman to bounce back from giving birth and be able to compete as an elite athlete? As the countdown to the Olympics gets nearer, the training intensifies and so does the pressure on Ona. During her preparation she puts on the wall some of the female athletes who have returned after pregnancy to top level sport who she hopes to join as an inspiration to others.
Ona shows us some beautiful island escapes that like Menorca, a spiritual home for her where she grew up as a child, where you can see her unique bond with the water and a place she now goes with her husband and child. There is even a moment for a quick environmental lesson under the sea in Formentera too.
As a video diary of Ona’s pregnancy and return to the Olympics, it also includes some interviews with other sports people and celebrities from Spain who join Ona in conversation to give her some encouragement and share their stories of their struggles and the negative perceptions of motherhood and even fatherhood faced in the workplace – although by the end this becomes a mixed message as much about the impact of the pandemic as to the sacrifices of having a family and career.
It’s a very intimate behind the scenes look at motherhood and elite sport with an interesting insight into the unusual world of synchronised swimming and their training methods, which Ona gives remarkable behind closed doors access to, in a lifting story to come out of the pandemic.
Film: Ona Carbonell – Starting Over
Director: Adàn Bonet
Genre: Documentary, Sport
Stars: Ona Carbonell
Run time: 1hr 34min