The summer Olympic games are right around the corner. Hosted in Japan's capital of Tokyo, the games promise to deliver a spectacle of the highest form of human physical achievement. Asian nations are eager to excel on the world's leading sporting stage, as they so often do. Given the popularity of sports in Asia, it comes as no surprise that Asian cinema has propelled that popularity in recent years. So, on the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics, we've compiled a list of recommended Asian sports films to get you excited for this summer's events. We'll be listing one film per sport, and we'll be focus specifically on Olympic sports (so films like Mukoku, Free and Easy, and Pegasus have to be left out).
Jump Ashin! (Gymnastics)
Ashin is a young gymnast who grows up in the small town of Yilan. His life has always revolved around training. His mother thought Ashin's sport would not amount to anything and asked the coach to remove him from the team. The discouraged young man gives up on gymnastics and begins to associate with the wrong crowd. Ashin and his best friend Pickle quickly become the most wanted thug in the city as the former gymnast successfully used his advanced gymnastic skills in the gang. When Pickle becomes addicted to drugs, the situation gets worse. Soon, the two run into trouble with the son of a local chief and are forced to flee to Taipei. When life in the big city turns miserable, Ashin returns home and decides to re-enter the world of gymnastics, no matter the obstacles.
Forever the Moment (Handball)
Based on real events from the 2004 Athens games, the Korean women’s handball team begins its journey as an undisciplined group of ragtag working mothers and misfit teens whipped into championship shape by hard-nosed Coach Ahn. There are, of course, several personality clashes among the players: The elite former player turned coach Hye-kyung and double medalist Mi-sook, a retired player now coaching, are at odds with the more working-class players. Will they be able to overcome their differences and make it to the end?
Weeds on Fire (Baseball)
In 1984, Shatin was one of many new cities planned by Hong Kong - somewhat akin to suburbs - to absorb the demand for housing, and these new cities were a laughing stock until the 2000s. Although they were not a dump, they had a dead-end atmosphere. The high school principal in the area, Luo, asks the local school board to form a baseball team for his high school students, but the reason has not been clear. Although convinced that these children are more likely to hit each other than to play with the team, the board agreed, and the Shatin Martins are born. Childhood friends Tse Chi-lung behind the plate and Fan Chun-wai on the mound. The boys are largely opposites — Lung is retiring and lacking confidence, Wai is brash and cocky — but they become the core of the seemingly desperate team. Long, especially in the game, is also proud of his achievements, despite being so meager. As the Martins begin to integrate as a whole, Lung and Wai face personal problems that force them to change their worldview and part ways.
No Breathing (Swimming)
Two misfits in the world of competitive swimming are forced to enter the same sports high school. Won Il was once a promising talent, but now, dislikes water. Arrogant Woo Sang is competitive but burdened by his father’s ambition.
As One (Table Tennis)
Hyun Jung-hwa is South Korea’s most promising table tennis player, but to her bitter disappointment, she could never overcome the mighty Chinese team and has had to repeatedly settle for second place. While preparing for the next World Table Tennis Championships in Japan, she learns that North and South Korea are working to come together to form a unified Korean team. Desperate for the gold medal and despite coaches and players’ unanimous protests, she makes the monumental decision to play on the unified team—simply as Korea.
Set in a high school's boxing club in Osaka, Kabu is a loveable delinquent who cuts class but is proficient in the boxing ring. Then one day on the subway, Kabu takes down three thugs who are harassing a young couple. When Kabu gets off the train, he realizes the person being harassed is his childhood friend Yuki, who moved back to town recently. Kabu is overjoyed, he learns that Yuki is now back in town and is currently attending the same high school as Kabu. A few days later, Kabu urges the shy Yuki to join the boxing club. After repeated begging from Kabu, Yuki finally decided to put on boxing gloves. Although Yuki is completely new to the sport, he trains with serious determination.
To the Fore (Cycling)
Two new cyclists, Qiu Ming and Qiu Tian, are recruited to support a sprinter, Jeong Ji-Won in team Radiant. They have contrasting styles: while Ming is brash and daring, Tian is hardworking and persistent. They soon move to other teams where each becomes a leading sprinter. Ming and Tian have a mutual interest in a recovering sprinter from the woman's team, Huang Shi Yao. Ming finds early success and challenges Ji-Won for the championship.
The Iron Ladies (Volleyball)
The true story of a Thai male volleyball team that competes in the national championships in 1996 with a team consisting mostly of gay and transgender individuals. Mon, who becomes the team leader, was a very talented player who constantly failed to be selected for various teams because he was gay. Jung, Mon's best friend, also experienced the same treatment but was always more optimistic about things. Their chance comes when Coach Bee is selected to put together a winning team, and she announces that the team will be open for all to try out. But when the coach selects both Jung and Mon to be on the team, some of the more macho players resign in protest. In order to form a team, the coach asks Mon to find a few of his friends to join the team. They select Nong, a gay sergeant in the army; Pia, the transgender star of a cabaret show; and Wit, whose parents don't know that their only son is gay.
Shaolin Soccer (Football)
Sing is a skilled Shaolin martial artist with "legs of steel" that caught the attention of a football coach. Together, they formed a team of former Shaolin brothers, inspired by the grand prize of the national football competition. Using an unlikely combination of martial arts and new football skills, it seemed like an unbeatable combination until they faced the dreaded Team Evil in the final battle.
Waterboys (Synchronised Swimming)
In a Japanese high school, a class of adolescent geeks joins the new synchronized swimming team when the school decides to hire a new teacher, Ms. Sakuma. Her beauty attracts all the boys to the swim team. They take up the challenge to take part in the competition, in spite of the mockeries of the "real sportsmen".