It’s been an incredible couple of days for Lesley Paterson, who took home the Best Adapted Screenplay trophy at the BAFTA Awards earlier this week for ‘All Quiet on the Western Front”. The Oscar-nominated movie is an adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel of the same name published in 1929. While the script of the movie has been getting some richly-deserved plaudits, the backstory of what the five-time world champion triathlete Paterson had to go through to get the movie made is even more remarkable.
The story goes that in 2016, Paterson crashed her bike and broke her shoulder just one day before she was to compete in a triathlon. She needed to win the event in Costa Rica to use the winner’s cheque for making the movie.
She opened up about that excruciating experience to The Hollywood Reporter, writing: “The day before (the race in Costa Rica), I crashed my bike and broke my shoulder. I couldn’t lift my left arm above my waist. I knew I could get through the bike if I strapped my arm at a 90-degree angle to the handlebars, and I could just about run if I used T-rex arms. But the swim had to be one-armed, with feet kicking like an outboard motor. Fortunately, the doctors had said there wasn’t a risk of long-term injury (it was already broken), but the pain was likely to be faint-worthy.”
A gruelling event, the triathlon requires an athlete to compete over three events: an 1.5km swim followed by a 40km bike ride, and finally a 10km run.
“I didn’t just want to win this race, I had to win because the option payment for my passion project, All Quiet on the Western Front, was due the following week, and this was the only way I could get five-digit cash together to keep our dream alive,” she wrote.
The race started badly for her. Competing in 105-degree heat, she finished the swim even last. There was a 15-minute gap between her and the race leader. But in the cycling event, despite the pain, she climbed her way to the fourth position. In the 10-kilometer run, she was steadily inching her way towards the race leader and caught up with her with just two kilometers left. She overtook the leader in the last kilometre and clung on to it.
“I won the race. I missed the medal ceremony and didn’t tell a soul about my injury until a journalist saw me in a sling on the flight home,” she added.