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|| News Item: Posted 2002-03-30

The Perfect Olympics
By Dave Black

Photo by Dave Black

Photo by Dave Black
I have never thought of myself as one with any skill when it comes to writing, but after reading the Olympic adventures of those who were in Salt Lake I felt compelled to reflect on my own experience.

I had the perfect Olympic Games. Perhaps this occurred because I did not eat any hot dogs. Maybe because my employer for the Games, Newsweek, gave me an all venue parking pass. Or perhaps it was the venues I was assigned to cover (no Alpine events, I'm getting older). Or maybe it was the love, encouragement and prayers of my wife Susan and our daughter Haley that helped me achieve the best Olympic experience I have ever had.

Salt Lake 2002 was my 10th Olympiad. I had been preparing myself for the
"16 DAYS of GLORY" now 17 days and increasing, with many pre-Olympic events, exercise and a Hi Protein diet.

I owe much of my photographic success to Nikon and all the folks at NPS in Salt Lake City and Park City. Shooting digital since Sydney2000, I chose to use the D1X exclusively for these winter games.

Previous events with the D1X had built up my confidence and I decided to forego 5 frames per second of the D1H and concentrate on the single frame approach,....the ONE SHOT. I also felt the larger file size would perhaps make a difference in space used by my editors at Newsweek. I believe this plan worked well. I had several strong images published including a double truck,( unusual for Newsweek,) of Sarah Hughes from the Ladies Figure Skating final . Newsweek was very happy and so was I.

Don't get me wrong, some things did not go as planned. I woke up one morning to find nails pounded though the front tires of my vehicle, forgot to reformat my 512 flash cards one day and had them stop writing images, (thank you NPS for recovering the images with special software) and was given the longest car and body search of the games when the military became agitated with the silver thermos I was given at the Nikon welcome party. (The thermos looks like a 300mm artillery shell from a tank.

" Sir, who gave you this item?" These were minor bumps along the long road that is the Olympic experience.

Photo by Dave Black

Photo by Dave Black
One of the advantages to using the D1X or any digital camera was the ability to be independent. Sending cards to the office via couriers provided by Kodak, or e-mailing images directly from the event site helped save time and kept me OUT of the MMC, main media center, and the office. This strategy helped with my sanity and my health. After all, photo editors don't need me to help them do their job any more than I would want them to determine the best position to shoot figure skating from. This is one of many reasons why I enjoy working with Newsweek. They trust me. And it is this trusting attitude that enables me to do my best.

There were many that asked me if the Olympics were bad for me, referring to the Ladies Figure Skating outcome. I am closely associated with the sport and especially with Michelle Kwan and her family. The answer is no.

It is true that there were several clients lined up for advertisements and endorsements regarding Michelle, and that they were withdrawn with her bronze medal finish. I saw the fall coming before she jumped, she was already leaning off center as she entered the triple flip, I knew it was all over. Yet I did not mourn her defeat. How could this be?

When the three ladies stepped down from the awards podium, one hundred plus voices shouted " Sarah, Sarah, this way, over here, kiss the medal, Sarah, Sarah! I set my camera down and took in the scene and then looked for Michelle, she was drifting away from the mob of photographers, I called out quietly, Michelle. She turned and looked and then smiled. I placed my hand over my heart, she nodded and said thanks. She is the greatest athlete I have ever known.

You see there is much more to the business of sports photography than the money or the travel, or the excitement, or the fame, or even the picture. It is the people and the relationships you develop along the way.

Photo by Dave Black

Photo by Dave Black
Much as Rick Rickman indicated in his account of the photographers who helped him with equipment at skiing that day, it is situations like this coupled with personal accomplishment and attitude that it is a privilege to have this job that makes being at any event a great experience.

I witnessed great effort, great victory, and tragic defeat, sometimes only
a few minutes apart. And this would occur each and every day. I saw the best athletes the world has, and I felt their joy and sorrow, a daily rollercoaster of emotion. I saw athletes that are friends celebrate in victory and accept defeat with grace.

At moguls I helped an NBC TV cameraman carry his equipment up 200 yards of moguls. And at luge a fan gave me their last hand warmer. It's the Olympics.

I still get a chill when the Star Spangled Banner is played. Corny ... no. Patriotic ...perhaps. Or maybe I just feel blessed to have a job like this.

Did I have bad Olympics? No NO WAY.

I had the perfect Olympic Games!

(Dave Black is a freelance photographer located in Colorado Springs.)

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