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|| News Item: Posted 1999-07-21

He Shoots, He Scores!
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

I spent most of the first half of the Women's World Cup final stuck in the media center trailer because President Clinton was so late getting to the venue. We were not allowed to get back into the Rose Bowl and we were not allowed to go up into the press box. With five minutes left in the first half I did get to the top of the stadium for a fabulous overview of the game. Some shooter from Reuters was the only other person who went up there with me.

The powers that be screwed me on an upper position on the west side (frontlit) side of the stadium and I did not want to go on the backlit side. I had done that for a football game before there and the results had been awful. I ended up at the south end corner at an upper spot when the paramedics who were there went to save someone who had passed out from the heat. Luckily they never came back.

Photo by Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated
My "Leading Off" double-truck came from there with a 600mm shot. I stayed there for the first overtime hoping our girls would pull it out. When they didn't I had to make a decision as to whether or not to go down on the field to the other end where we only had one shooter (Peter Read Miller). Doing so would mean missing most of the second overtime and a possible game winner and all that goes with it. It also meant that I might be in position on time if there was a shootout.

I packed up my gear and went for it. I got to the east side sideline with five minutes left in the second OT and was promptly blocked from shooting by security. I kept my fingers crossed that no one would score and lucked out. At the end of the OT I booked it to the shootout end of the field. Peter was in the Northwest corner and John McDonough had stake out the northeast sideline.

The only spot left was behind the goal I figured (George Tiedeman was at the south end). I camped out there with a couple of other shooters. Security was on us right away and started hammering us to get out of there. Since this was only the third soccer game I've ever shot in my life I don't know if it was because we were not supposed to be there because of TV or that we might distract the kickers. Anyway, I feigned ignorance, stayed crouched as low as I could go and stayed put.

I focused on the kickers with an 80-200 (shooting Fuji MS100 at 1000/4 pushed 1 1/3 stops) and shot wide enough to get the goalie in the frame. I changed film twice before the final kick. I didn't really realize the importance of that kick. As a non-soccer person I would not have figured that to be the "game winner." I did figure that there would be a pretty big celebration going on if she made it.I framed her kick the same as the others and fired on her mark. When it went in she moved just a bit forward before semi-stripping and screaming.

I had to make sure I retained focus but because those damn lenses are now two touches I couldn't zoom any tighter (I was manually focusing). I didn't want to give up the moment to recompose. All the way to the airport to ship the film I agonized over my exposure. I must have asked Peter four times what he thought. When we pulled up to the curb at United he said, "I guess you better know now because we're getting rid of it!" At dinner I told my wife I knew I had a great image but it was too loose to be a cover...Unless it was extremely sharp.

I also worried about how the net played into the image. Rick Stewart told me fourteen years ago that any time I was up against a net or cage to open up as much as possible to minimize the effects. I thought f.4 would be enough. I watched ESPN's Sports Center that night to see how the light was on Chastain for that kick. The film was flying to NY and I still had time to call the lab and change the processing instructions I had scribbled on the film envelope. It looked like I had called it right.

My editor called me the next morning and told me I had nailed it...probable cover. I said "let's wait until it goes to print on Monday night." With a little computer help on the net on the right side of the image (through her arm) they did turn a horizontal into a vertical cover.

Is it the biggest moment in women's sports history? Geez, I don't know. There certainly more people watching this than any other women's sporting event. Right now I guess it would be. We'll have to wait a few months I think to put it truly into perspective with other great moments like Flojo or Wilma from the Olympics. It's definitely up there.

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