PRODUCTION: Manfred Vainokivi Shoots Estonian Doc First Olympic Champion

    First Olympic Champion by Manfred Vainokivi First Olympic Champion by Manfred Vainokivi credit: Lembit Peegel

    TALLINN: Estonian director/DoP/producer Manfred Vainokivi is in production with his documentary First Olympic Champion / Esimene olümpiavõitja.

    Erika Salumäe has experienced significant highs and lows, having to prove her worth. She became a two-time Olympic champion and a world champion in track cycling, and since 1980 she has lived as if under a magnifying glass, every one of her movements known to the public. After the end of her sports career, Salumäe entered the orbit of political forces. In elections, she was a vote magnet, and Erika reached the Tallinn council and sat in the Riigikogu.

    "In a classical sense, this is a true 'Cinderella' story, where a little girl abandoned by her alcoholic mother proves to the world that she is needed. Despite a tough childhood, Erika Salumäe emerges as the first Olympic champion in women's track cycling in history. From an abandoned girl to a national hero, she was carried on people's shoulders and today every Estonian knows her. The other side of the medal is the time given to sports, which brought along health problems. In 2013, she was forced to sell her medals to cover the costs of surgery, and today she lives as a recluse in Spain. The little girl has come full circle back to the beginning”, Manfred Vainokivi told FNE.

    Marju Lepp is producing through Estonia’s Filmivabrik with a total budget of 160,000 EUR.

    The project was financed by the Estonian Film Institute with 85,000 EUR in 2023, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia with 50,000 EUR in 2023-2024, as well as private investors.

    The principal photography began in August 2023 and will continue until February 2025 in Estonia, Spain and England.

    First Olympic Champion by Manfred Vainokivi, credit: Lembit PeegelThe premiere of the film will take place in October 2026.

    Production Information:

    Filmivabrik (Estonia)
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    Director: Manfred Vainokivi
    DoP: Manfred Vainokivi