Downhill Racer was on BBC2 last week late, and a drunk me stayed up to watch it not remembering how it ended. IDIOT PETE. This is a sports film. For all of its slightly unusual sports subject, it is as formulaic as they come. Bobby Redford is the blonde haired ski-ing Natural (really). Gene Hackman is his stick-up-arse coach. It is the dichotomy of training versus skill couched in the non-experimental world of the Hollywood sports film.

The final sequences say it all. Redford, races second to last. The world champ does a world champy kind of time, leaving Redford to break the kind of time his lack of discipline usually lets him down on. Hackman keeps him informed about the course (loose snow). In an admittedly tight and exciting sequence, Redford bombs down the hill and just breaks the champs time. Uproar. This is the first time an American has done this in the Olympics. The networks and fans cheer him.

Of course, someone else is coming down the hill. The last competitor. We hear quietly in the background that he too is very close to the time. Celebrations continue. No American has even been in the medals in the Olympics. Redford is keeping an eye on this other skiers time, but everyone else thinks it is all over.

This is a Hollywood film. It is all over. The other skier falls. Redford wins. But no American had even been in the medals before. Surely silver would have been an equally great accomplishment, and also underline a message about counting our chickens. In ski-ing, as in show-jumping or gymnastics, only the last competitor truly knows what he is racing against. In many ways it is a pure way of competing, truly against what your potential is. In many other ways (including spectacle) it is a rubbish way of deciding who is best. In sport you have to work best against a deadline. Downhill Racer could have hinted to this, but retreats into the same old cliches.