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Sure Shot | FIBA's Olympic snappers share their favorite and most meaningful photos from Tokyo 2020
MIES (Switzerland) - The basketball tournaments at the Tokyo 2020 Games were among the most captivating in the history of the Olympics.
FIBA's photographers were there to both witness and capture the genius of players like Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Breanna Stewart and Rui Machida. They lived and breathed the drama from the Saitama Super Arena that gripped fans watching from around the world.
Which photos taken will always have the most special meaning to those who took them, and what was their strategy and technique for capturing them?
Photographer Hendrik Osula
As we had only two places besides the court in Tokyo, those of that were not supposed to shoot a specific game had to pick our positions somewhere else.
So for the Spain vs USA Quarter-Final, I went to the highest level of stands to shoot more up to down and get more "clean" shots of the action. For that, I used my 300mm tele lens and tried to follow more action under one basket, the USA one in this instance. And as with shots like those, you always need some luck, and luckily this time I had some.
KD was on the attack and found a clean way for a big dunk while Rubio and Abalde had nothing more to do than just enjoy the performance of the GOAT.
So this photo is surely the result of a good choice of position (which was doable only because we had no crowd), a great performance by one of the best players in the world and good timing!
Photographer Sonia Cañada
It is difficult for me to choose the most important photo for me from these Games. There have been many great moments and numerous players of enormous talent from which to try to capture "the perfect photo".
Although I have other aesthetically pleasing photos, I think my choice could not be other than the one that follows since it is about a moment and a snapshot that had a great repercussion and significance at all levels.
Let me set the stage for you: It was the men's Semi-Final, France v Slovenia, with less than two seconds to go. Vincent Collet's men were ahead by a single point on the scoreboard as Slovenia's Klemen Prepelic goes to the rim ... and Nicolas Batum appears from behind as the protagonist of the block, and perhaps the PLAY, in capital letters, of Tokyo 2020!
I was positioned in front of the French bench with the appropriate optics so that no detail escaped me, while my teammate Matteo Marchi was in front of the Slovenian bench.
We both shot at the same time, each from a different angle. The exact same moment captured by photographers with two very different styles.
I managed to capture the precise moment in which Batum's right hand stops, in its tracks, the trajectory of the ball being laid up by Prepelic, thus nipping Slovenia's dreams of Olympic glory in the bud.
Everything happened in tenths of a second. My angle was the ideal one to catch the perfect Batum flight that propelled France to the grand Final of Tokyo 2020. A photo that combines great plastic beauty with the added historical value of a transcendent block that instantly went into the annals of French basketball.
When I lifted my finger from the shutter button, I was immediately aware of what was on my camera. And I smiled ... Wow, did I smile!
Photographer Matteo Marchi
It's always difficult to pick one photo over the other…it's like if they ask a mom or a dad who their favorite son is. I could have easily chosen Batum's block photo that has been everywhere, but that was too obvious.
I decided to choose an image that might not technically be my best photo, but something that really moves me every time I see it. It's the moment right after the end of the clash between Japan v Belgium in the women's Quarter-Final.
The Belgians suffered a devastating loss, missing the last-second shot at the buzzer. It was clear to me that they had expected to win - and maybe they even deserved to win. Those minutes right after the final buzzer had a tornado of emotions on both sides and I always have thought that the Olympics are different compared to other tournaments just because of that: emotions are through the roof within the Olympic arena.
In this photo, there are Hanne Mestdagh and Julie Vanloo, teammates and friends, desperate. In the background, there's the happiness of the Japan team. The backboard illuminated, meaning time is up. All around this scene, a thick curtain of overwhelming feelings covered the court.
To sum up all of that, I think in this image there is everything that we were looking for in an Olympic photo: friendship, desperation, happiness, pride. Everything basketball is all about.
Photographer Milad Payami
Yes, they say it's all about being at the right place at the right time but that might not be all! What was making this Olympics different from the others?
This kept my mind occupied as we got closer to the Finals! I kept asking myself how I could tell the story of the Olympics as one of the lucky human beings to have the chance to be there, witnessing history as it was being made, and show it to the world the way I was seeing it.
To me, this Olympics was more about the atmosphere at the venues. Fans were not there but I could feel the energy: It was different. The first one like this and I hope the last one!
This was something as big as the three colors of Bronze, Silver and Gold. Something as big or even bigger than the names of the stars on the court. Big as KD, DT, Scola, Doncic, the Gasol Brothers and all the athletes that tried to bring out the best in them.
I wanted to show it all. To capture the uniqueness of the games, I needed the peak moment at the Finals of the Olympics. The Game of the Games. The game everyone has been waiting for. A moment with a lot of stories to tell.
I needed to choose my spot wisely. I needed the rings in my shot as one of the main elements, for sure. I needed to show that people are not there. And I needed the stars of the show at a peak moment. I needed to focus!
The Final was at 11:30 on 7th Aug 2021 and the window of my hotel faced the Saitama Venue. I woke up at 7, sat by the window and stared at the venue for half an hour. I tried to imagine the possible shots I could get and I remembered one of my favorite photos taken of Paul George at the Final of the Olympics in Rio 2016 when he was going for a dunk. I could see the Rings and the atmosphere behind him.
A perfect shot for the event.
I needed something like that to tell the story of the Games and Yessss. This was the shot for me. It was the moment I had been waiting for and hoping for. KD and Rudy are up in the air battling for Gold. When I get a shot that I love, I can feel it even before pushing the "review" button on my camera and I had the same feeling after this one. HIStory was made!