Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Sister Hali

Many years ago, when a gymnastics coach asked filmmaker Paul Sheriff whether he was related to a once-rising gymnastics star, the only word Paul could summon was no.  

Hali Sheriff's rocketlike career as a world-class gymnast began to escape Earth's orbit in 1966, as her dominance in all areas of the sport made her the frontrunner for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team. She was only 14 at the time: plucky, gifted and destined to make her mark, yet still devoid of the rich life experiences that surely would follow.   

Hali's story ended right there. Instead of claiming Olympic glory, she faded into history, largely forgotten by all except family, teammates and those who follow gymnastics. You see, Hali died in a plane crash in the early summer of 1966. All six passengers on the small plane perished, including her mother and father.

Her brother Paul Sheriff couldn't muster the word yes when asked about his relationship to Hali because he understandably found the subject too painful. And hadn't his sister's life ended with an epic no, too, so could there have been a more appropriate answer in a grand, cosmic sense? 

This documentary is a fine tribute to a young athlete who burned brightly, then disappeared into the stars, over 50 years ago. Hali tells her story here in absentia with the assistance of her brother Paul, who deserves special thanks for his everlasting devotion. You can watch the trailer here: