|Directed by||Robert Towne|
|Produced by||Robert Towne|
|Written by||Robert Towne|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|February 5, 1982|
Personal Best is a 1982 film centered on a group of women trying to qualify for the American track-and-field team bound for the 1980 Olympic Games. Despite their commitment to their training regimen, their dreams are thwarted when the United States announces its boycott of the Games for political reasons, leaving them with only the informal "personal best" marks they achieved during training to connote their achievements.
The film was praised by critics for providing a realistic look at the world of women's athletics, for exploring the complex relationships that can exist among teammates and their coach, and for its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between an older lesbian (Donnelly) and a younger bisexual woman (Hemingway). Despite good reviews, it flopped at the box-office.
Many of the scenes were filmed in San Luis Obispo County. While the sign on the track said "Cal Poly", which is a university in San Luis Obispo, it was filmed at the track at Morro Bay High School. There are also two scenes filmed at restaurants in downtown San Luis Obispo; the Cigar Factory and 1865. Filming locations in Eugene, Oregon, included Hayward Field and the nearby Track Town Pizza restaurant.
Chris Cahill is a young athlete who competes unsuccessfully in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. She meets a more experienced lesbian track and field competitor, Tory Skinner, and their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship.
Tory gives tips to Chris on how to improve as she trains for a shot at the 1980 Olympic track and field team. Anger and jealousy develop, more so when coach Terry Tinghoff insist that Chris begin training in the pentathlon, Tory's event. Terry insists on being the only one whose advice Chris follows. After suffering a freak knee injury, Chris breaks it off with Tory and during her recovery begins a heterosexual relationship with Denny Stites, a former swimmer, now water polo player.
Many elite track and field athletes of the day played in the film, including:
The lesbian relationship in the movie is referenced by Ross Geller in an episode of the fourth season of Friends. The lesbian relationship is also referenced in episode 10 of the first season of American Dad!, in the 1997 Ellen episode "The Puppy Episode", and in the 2012 novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
Personal Best garnered a 71% approval rating at review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews. It was noted for its physicality and forthright treatment of sensitive emotional issues. Roger Ebert gave the film four of a possible four stars and wrote, "This is a very physical movie, one of the healthiest and sweatiest celebrations of physical exertion I can remember...It is filled with the uncertainties, risks, cares, and rewards of real life, and it considers its characters' hearts and minds, and sees their sexuality as an expression of their true feelings for each other."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: