According to some people in Croatia, Mihovil Španja is a huge star, for others, he's just an anonymous name – depending on one's knowledge on international achievements of Croatia's athletes.

A swimmer who recently turned 30, with 26 medals won at world and European championships, as well as the Paralympics he is the most decorated athlete in the history of Croatia.

When he was only 6 months old, Mihovil took a vaccine that left him paralyzed just a few days after he had taken it. Diagnosis: Polio. Due to the hard work of both him and his family he managed to rehabilitate his body to some degree but there was no hope for his right leg – it stayed underdeveloped. Despite the obvious physical deficiency, Mihovil was surrounded with love and support from his family which resulted with him developing into an optimistic child ready to battle all the obstacles he was up against as the result of negligence of others.

He started swimming way before he started walking, at only 18 months. Swimming shaped him both as a person and as an athlete. Along with his professional career, unlike most of his colleagues, Mihovil was able to get a degree in Public Relations at the University of Dubrovnik. With this degree he will be able to find a job in an area which matches his verbal abilities.

The archive footage of his rehabilitation, his training both as a child and as a teenager, as well as adrenaline pumped shots of his races on the international stage (Paralympics) help us to relive those moments in a deeply emotional way.

 

Mihovil's story, in which he, as well as people surrounding him share his views, his attitudes, his emotions, becomes universal and inspires each and every one of us to take a long hard look at ourselves, question our views, our priorities and introduce us to a world that at this very moment might seem so distant but can become our harsh reality in a heartbeat.

 

“You’re only one car wreck or broken leg away from being Jackie”

 (Simon Stewart, coach of the Danish paralympian Jackie Christiansen)

 

 

BEYOND MEDALS

 

Scriptwriter and director:  Antonia Dubravka Carnerud

Cinematographer and editor: Mišo Sorić

Music: Zack Hemsey, Žarko Dragojević

Producer: Antonia D. Carnerud

Length: 74 min. Format: 16:9 HD/DCP

Production: Croatian Films Ltd.

 

Financed by Croatian Audiovisual Centre

& Croatian Films Ltd

© MMXVI Croatian Films Ltd./Hrvatski film d.o.o.