Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Michael Phelps Revisited

I've always considered sports photography to be an under-appreciated genre of photography. Photojournalism, dance photography, jazz photography, fashion photography, are all seen on a higher level, so perhaps it's an accessibility thing. I prefer to make quality and originality the criteria.

As an example of this, I just came across this remarkable sequence of pictures showing unequivocally how Michael Phelps won the 100 meter butterfly by 1/100 of a second. The photographs were "taken" by Heinz Kleutmeier and Jeff Kavanaugh - Kleutmeier being one of the top Sports Illustrated photographers and Jeff Kavanaugh his assistant. As Vincent Laforet points out on his blog it's a rare event for photographers to share credit, but in this case the pictures were the result of so much collaborative planning, remote shuttering, computer synching etc., that the credit was both generous and appropriate.

The first picture (above) is a reminder of the trouble Phelps was in in this particular race. After 50 meters he was 7th of 8.

Phelps made a critical decision in the final meters to attempt another half-stroke while Serbia's Milorad Cavic (right) tried to glide to the finish.

With less than a meter to go, Phelps still trailed Cavic and his only hope was to somehow out-touch the Serbian.

Cavic was inches from stopping Phelps' quest for eight gold medals as the American reached over the water for his final half-stroke.

Phelps brought his hands down through the water and touched the wall .01 seconds before Cavic finished his glide to the wall, swiping the gold medal and tying Mark Spitz's record of seven golds at one Olympics.

As seen in this blowup from the previous frame, Cavic hadn't touched the wall yet.

The Serbian delegation filed a protest, but conceded that Phelps won after reviewing the tape provided by FINA, swimming's governing body.

Seven frames from one of the greatest seconds in sport and in sports photography.


Anonymous said...

And yet the crazy conspiracy theorists will not yield, even though Cavic himself did on his blog right after the race.

Selena said...

Where did you find these? I remember seeing the tape of the sequence on television, but a nicely laid out freeze frame sequence was never shown. Nice find!

The Year in Pictures said...

I saw one picture and then googled Heinz Kleutmeier.
These came up right away.


QBParis said...

The lens speaks the truth! Great post!

*jean* said...

wow, we thought the underwater camera shots were amazing but they are even more amazing in stills....thanks!