Helen Maroulis has made a name for herself in the wrestling world. The 30-year-old made history at the 2016 Summer Olympics, winning gold in the women's freestyle 55kg. Maroulis became the first-ever American to win a goal medal in women's freestyle wrestling at the Olympic Games. But after the big win, Maroulis suffered a brain injury during a match and was forced into early retirement. The challenges she dealt with as well as working her way to getting back on the mat are featured in a new documentary called Helen | Believe which is produced by Religion of Sports. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, Maroulis talked about her reaction when she watched the final product.
"Oh my gosh. Well, when I saw the final product, I cried," Maroulis exclusive told PopCulture. "It's like two major parts where I cried during the film, but just overall, it's just really amazing because obviously when I'm telling my story, I'm telling it a certain way and I'm only using words, but to see people tell my story, but through like art was just so cool and to see teammates and coaches and so many people that helped me in that film to see the journey and how it progresses. It was just really done and really amazing."
Religion of Sports has emerged as one of the top companies for telling stories of sports figures. Athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady and Simone Biles have been featured in projects from Religion of Sports. And for Helen | Believe, Religion of Sports teamed up with Reserve Entertainment, and Chris Pratt's Indivisible Productions to document Maroulis' journey. Maroulis said she didn't get a chance to meet Pratt but the Guardians of the Galaxy star sent her various messages.
"He has a wrestling background," Maroulis said. "He's actually been to some USA wrestling events before. Our paths didn't cross this time on the film yet. They kept trying, his team and my team kept trying to make it happen, but obviously, he's got his projects he's working on and I was training for the Olympics. So it was just, yeah, it just didn't work out. But he sent really nice encouraging messages, watch the trials, watch the Olympics. And I know that he has wrestled himself and is a big fan of wrestling. So to have his kind of insights and overlook on this project was really, really cool. And it's just so cool."
The announcement of Helen | Believe comes during Mental Health Awareness month. With Maroulis dealing with a serious injury, the Olympic star's mental health was put to the test. "I think anyone that's going through any mental health thing knows, it's just incredibly difficult," she said. "You're trying to work with yourself. Sometimes you also feel like you're working against yourself or you just feel like you can't get it right or you can't get it together."
And with Maroulis making history when it comes to women wrestling, having women produce the documentary was very important. "I think it's incredibly important for women to help tell other women's stories," she explained. "And we actually had three female producers. It's Giselle [Parets], Tracy [Aftergood] and Andrea [Courtney], and they're all really amazing women and I'm so blessed to have them in my life and that they took on this project and told this story and yeah, it's been really amazing."