Hi Mosquito. Nice Mosquito. Let me pet you. With my shoe ! Haha Mosquito. Dead Mosquito.
Its Day 5, and the cooling misty rain sets in. Our Media village is set amongst rocky mountains and light tropical rainforest of Rio. Fog envelopes the tops of the mountains. The forest sparkles with every drop of water.
I now have a small glimpse of the infinite beauty of this land. For those who know me well, the solitude of the mountains, the mist and the fog keep calling me. Maybe someday that’s where you will find me. This morning I am at peace within this land. Finally.
My shitty poor false start to these games is no more. My confidence just changed. I can and will turn this around. To be the best I can be. Funnily enough, the fog and rain has made me robust strong and invincible.
I then run for the bus that’s about to leave for the Main Press Centre, slip on the wet tiles and fall on my arse. Good start Superman !
The Rio Olympics has now calmed and the squillion journalists and photographers are in routine. Rio2016 is also in ‘bandaid’ mode. Things went wrong for all of us during the opening stanza of the games, but these tiny open wounds are being covered by Rio2016 adhesive bandages, and the organising committee pray that there is enough adhesive to last till day 15.
Everything is sore now. Calfs, shins, thighs, back, shoulders, neck. Lactate is setting in. Stepping out of bed is partnered with a lot of ‘old man’ groans. Showers are getting longer. But I know that in a few days time, the aches pains and lactate are replaced by the necessary foto-fitness to get us through the Games.
The brain is softening though. Long days. No food. A haze of purple vague clouds our routine and logic. Leaving things behind at the venue. Forgetting things back in your room. Can’t find your phone (it’s right next to you stupid). Why doesn't my Visa card work ? When did I last eat ? All 2000 photographers do it. They would be lying if they didn’t.
I find myself standing in a ‘broken down’ elevator for 5 minutes hoping and praying in a panic that someone will find me someday, then realising I haven’t pressed a floor button yet.
I have only just noticed that my shower towel hook has been installed upside down in my bathroom. A hook installed upside down is as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.
So many feelings today. Mostly hunger.
For some unknown reason at this Olympics, there is no McDonalds in the Main Press Centre. It’s always a perfect fallback when we feel homesick, or simply need a cleansing overdose of salt and sugar.
On Day 5 the Aussie photographers spot a Maccas not far from the Olympic Pool. Within walking distance. So in true ‘Chariots of Fire’ style, the dash is on to get there. Only to find a menu that couldn't satisfy. It only sells ice-cream. Sundaes or cone. Our hearts and stomachs drop.
Photographers are still being targeted by petty thieves. Dear IOC, I thank you for making us wear these horrid offensive tan vests that shine like a beacon for the thieves. Just when you start to feel secure and comfortable, another theft story hits the foto airwaves. We all take turns minding each others gear. We have to pack and take our gear and laptops with us to the bathroom if no-one you can trust is in close vicinity.
Thieves have snuck onto buses while the driver takes a smoko. They sit quietly on the bus but then make a grab and dash at the next stop. Thieves that are in a non-public ‘secure’ accredited area. Without any accreditation pass around their neck. Yep. Defies all logic.
Day 8, and it’s my last night of shooting Swimming. Its been an 8 day Lane 4 Medley of emotion, highs, lows, and laughs.
My aquatic medley began a month ago. I became a member of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team and accompanied them to the USA for their final training camp before heading over to Rio. I had no restrictions or boundaries as to what I could photograph. Best gig ever. I got to know the athletes, coaches and support staff so much more. And they got to know me. I have made new Dolphin friends. When I get home, I can finally throw out my DVD box set of Flipper reruns.
And now I’ve been with them for 8 days in Rio. This time I could only watch through my big glass lens, about 40 metres away.
Through my 600mm lens I get a closeup view.
I got to learn a little about each athlete’s personality, observing and photographing them in Alabama. So I tried to match their Olympic day with what little I knew about each one.
Emma McKeon’s emotional ride through the 4x100m freestyle gold as she tried so hard to hold back tears of surprise love and joy. Brianna’s bright wide open eyes that reflected her nervous first Olympic experience. The boyish smile and giggle from Kyle Chalmers when he walked out in his first heat and absorbed the sights and sounds of an Olympic stadium. Like a kid in a candy store. The piercing war eagle eyes and puffed up chest of Jacob Hansford, first timer but ready to take on the biggest swimming challenge head on.
The athletes also got to know me in Alabama. As they stood on the winners medal podium here in Rio, they would look for me in the photographers pit, wave, smile, or show me their medal for a Delly exclusive selfie.
Mack Horton pushed the escort and Silver medallist another 5 metres from the designated medal position on their Medal walk, so that he could stand in front of me and look deep into my lens and not the other 299 other snappers. The other three Aussie News snappers broke out in racous laughter as Mack made his shove move.
I photographed Kyle Calmers for my book project whilst he chased virtual Pokemon on the Uni grounds in Alabama. 2 weeks later, and on Night Whenever, he becomes the fastest swimmer on the planet. Wow, simply wow.
Then the night that now slots into my Top 5 Sporting Moment of my 25 year photo-career. Cate Campbell. Through the 600mm I could see the disbelief in her eyes. Her 24/7 beaming smile isn't there. Her limp arms. Her competitors consoling her as she exited the pool. Her body language slumped and lifeless. Bronte is there to hug her sister, but with Cate leaning to one side and falling, Bronte hangs on. Cate’s legs cant hold up her drained body anymore. The stadium is silent. I can’t see through my lens anymore as small tears wells in my eyes. This was not supposed to happen.
Swimming Australia staff all hugging and consoling each other outside the stadium. We get back to the Media village at around 1.30am yet we spend the next 2 hours on chats and phone calls with Dolphins Team members and staff back home. Talking it all out. A night scripted with celebration for Cate was filled with heartbreak for one of the loveliest ladies you will ever meet.
My photograph of Cate being consoled by her medal winning competitors said so so much. Powerful and with so many messages, the newspapers back home are now running print stories about the photograph itself. Normally it’s the other way around.
Their online story about my photograph begins with the opening paragraph, “The Olympic pool has been at boiling point amid allegations of doping, bitter feuds and the re-opening of Cold War divides. This is the photo that captures the moment when humanity struck a blow in return.”
OK, maybe that's a little over the top. But I’ll take that as a pretty good compliment.
So I’m now off to save the world with my Nikon. Or shoot Fencing. I’ll decide when I get on the bus.