1 9 9 6 (Australia)
26 x 60/30 minute episodes
This Australian teenage drama series from Channel 10 presented the pressure-cooker world of competitive sports at the (fictional) Sports West Academy.
The gruelling routine of career athletes training for the Olympics provided the backdrop for the lives and loves of young would-be Aussie Olympians and their coaches, families, rivals, lovers and friends.
Here at the NASA-style sports laboratory, a range of ethnically diverse Anglo-Asian-European-Aboriginal-Australians lived and trained – swimmers, cyclists, gymnasts, track stars – against a backdrop of sparkling blue pools, soaking up sports psychology mantras like “no one else exists, just you and the pool”.
The young cast included Martin Henderson (Echo Point) as obsessive swimmer Tom Nash, Tai Nguyen (Heartbreak High) as his rival in the pool, Nhon “Noodle” Huong Tran, and Melissa Thomas (E Street) as sprinter Sandy Fricker.
A then-unknown Heath Ledger played young cyclist Snowy Bowles, an easy-going country boy who, after confirming to himself that he was gay, was brave enough to come out to his buddies.
Each of the 10 actors playing athletes had a double (for the actual sports footage and to give technical advice during filming) and scripts were vetted by specialists from the Western Australian Institute of Sport.
Shot on 16mm film, Sweat was filmed in Perth, Western Australia, and designed primarily for the European market.
As a result, script changes had to be approved by the European backers (who invested $5 million in the series): The Germans wanted lots of blue sky and brown desert while the Brits wanted beaches. French investors threatened to pull out if the French actor didn’t get the girl.
Writer John Rapsey actually conceived the series in 1990 but couldn’t generate any interest in it until Sydney was named as the host city for the 2000 Olympics.
Tatyana ‘Tats’ Alecsandri
Nhon “Noodle” Huong Tran