The world of sports is one that’s packed with emotions: the joy of victory, the disappointment of failure, the calm before the storm, and the passionate moments in between – for the players as well as the spectators. Capturing these moments of vulnerability as well as invincibility that lie at the heart of athleticism are the photographers who amplify emotion and tell a story in every frame.
Photographer David Gray managed to do precisely that in his photograph of Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, who appears to pause mid-serve, tennis racket in hand. Osaka’s shadow is seen bending, her free hand outstretched presumably towards a butterfly that appears to fleetingly rest on the tips of her fingers. The shot captures a tender moment during the fierce match that won Osaka her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australia Open. The award-winning image is featured in the third edition of the World Sports Photography Awards 2022, the only international competition of its kind.
It is one of 24 select images across various categories including American football, basketball, cycling, gymnastics, boxing, and aquatic. The winners were selected from over 7,000 entries received, including those from some of the world’s most accomplished photographers, and judged by leading figures from the sports, media, brand, and creative industries.
Simon Burton, co-founder of the World Sports Photography Awards, said of Gray’s award-winning photo in a media release, “This is a breath-taking image. Sports Photography captures special moments and tells unique stories, but most of all it draws you in and reveals the unexpected. It forces you to look again and reconsider.”
The broad category of Sports Photography allows a peek inside the many worlds outside mainstream sports. One such world is that of urban and extreme sports, also known as action sports or alternative sports, categorised by high speed and high risk. Common sports played in this category are skateboarding, snowboarding, freestyle skiing, mountain biking, and cliff diving, among others. The winning image in this category was Morgan Treacy’s that captures Romanian cliff diver Catalin Preda mid-air as he dives off a 27.5 metre platform at the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Downpatrick Head, Ireland, in September 2021.
Swedish photographer Joel Marklund’s image of biathlete Linn Persson as she shoots during the Biathlon World Championships 2021, organised by the International Biathlon Union (IBU), in Pokljuka, Slovenia, won in the winter sports category. The Biathlon is a competitive sport that combines skiing and rifle shooting. Contestants typically race through a cross-country trail, stopping to shoot targets with a special lightweight rifle, at designated stops.
Another award-winning photograph shows the bandaged and bruised legs of Chinese gymnast Guan Chenchen, who won the gold medal on the beam at the Women's Gymnastics Apparatus Final 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, taken by American photographer Ashley Landis, who won in the gymnastics category for the image.
From Pakistan, photographer Muhammad Arbaz’s image of cricketer Khushdil Shah taken just after Shah leans into a shot with his bat won in the cricket category. The photo, taken in the National Stadium in Karachi, depicts a wave of golden light falling on Shah, against the backdrop of the shadowy figure of an umpire.
From American swimmer Caeleb Dressel’s winning lap at the Tokyo Olympics 2021 to Australian boxer Ebanie Bridges’ eye injury after her WBA Bantamweight defeat, check out the other winning entries below.