Monday, February 11, 2013

Faces of the Games

I've always been intrigued by portraits, in the stories they can tell when done well...maybe an elusive goal of mine for a very long time.  For several of the past Special Olympic World Games, I've tried to shoot portraits of athletes, not just ones on Team USA, but other countries as well.  Coaching and photography are at odds with each other during competition, but I manage to make a few images anyway.

We're together for such a short time and become close, quickly appreciating each other and learning just a little of their lives and their stories. If nothing else, they are a reminder of the person I had the privilege to come to know for a few brief weeks.  Sadly, I may never see them again,  so the pictures become even a more valuable record of who they are and our time together.

Some Crazy Coaches
Although not entirely a portrait, this image kind of sets the stage for the rest of the photos-these three friends have coached at four Winter World Games together and can pick up that friendship right where it left off years ago.  I think the expressions here illustrate that closeness that I'm so thankful for.

Kimmo is the Finnish Head Coach and someone I have become close to over the years.  A World Games can become like a reunion of sorts, with old friends getting back together once every four years.  I don't take these friendships for granted, and it pains me to to think one day I won't have this chance again.  Kimmo is a fun loving coach, always quick with a laugh and thru his broken English we have lively conversations.  He always puts athletes first and I respect him greatly...crazy Finn. ;)

Standing Out
It's a known fact that our motto is "hurry up and wait" so one must be more than patient.  Coaches also need to be ever watchful, knowing at all times where their athletes are, so keeping a careful eye out is requirement numeral uno for the staff.

The Pay-Off
Being at a World Games is payment enough, but no one should not be fooled into thinking the medals don't matter.  Every athlete wants to take their place on the highest podium spot-that's where the payoff comes from all the months of hard work, travel, lousy food and sleepless nights.    

Proud Coach
Usually few photographs of me appear here on my site, but I'll indulge myself some in this post-just have to for there are far too many people that will be missed and I became close to.  Laura was our team Captain and hails from New Ham-sure ;) and was one of the hardest working athletes on the team.  She just was the one person you always loved to see in the morning and would be willing to help in anyway she could.  Besides all that, she is a top notch skier and a great example of a world games athlete.
Kansas Spitfire
Helen is from Kansas-the hotbed of XC skiing.  She has such a great fun loving and friendly personality-how could I not love her.  She skied hard, laughed loudly and took all of the world games experiences in-just as it should be.

Dynamic Duo
Games faces on before the 1 kilometer race.  We'd always stage races in a tunnel under the stadium-the perfect place to see how athletes handle the pre-race.  These two guys were just awesome to be around.  Junichi saved the day in the airport in Japan, translating to TSA agents there for the figure skating team.  David is a hoot-his stories and daily banter (" how do you know?") is the stuff I'll always remember.

Birthday Boy
 Jimmer celebrated his 18th birthday and did his best to let everyone at the World Games know.  He had quite the following of Korean girls and spent maybe just a little too much time cultivating those friendships.  The Korean Head Coach also befriended Jim and was kind enough to hand deliver a birthday cake on the special day-just a small thing, but so typical of the games.

Rain Day
We were totally rained out one day and the weather was just miserable and this images sums up the face of a Head Coach scrambling in his mind to come up with a plan for the day ahead.

Prepped and Ready
 Jerry was our oldest athlete on the team at 57 years young and an outstanding skiier-always with the questions of how he'd done.  Bryan is a Global Messanger and had one of the most dramatic finishes in a race ever-televised for the world to see.

One Last World Games
Erin, retiring skier and veteran of two World Games.  She always pushed to do longer races, even with limited training time back in Pennsylvania.  She knows the game face.

The Captain

 The captain again here.  A prepared athlete if there ever was one.  Nothing bothered her and she was up for any challenge.

Game Faces
Trying their best to do the game faces I taught them...too bad a second later they burst into laughter.

The Medal Brings it Home
A rare smile from Jeremy and there were more thana few times we wondered if he really enjoyed the games.  Then, something like this would happen and we discovered he really was taking everything in and appreciating his time in Korea.

Ever Watchful
At times there are things going on in every direction and it takes all hand on deck to pull it all off.  I had the very best coaching staffs one could hope for.

"Lunch" was about the only downtime we had all day and it provided us all with a much needed break and a chance to just talk to each other-the conversations I will miss, the cold food, not-so-much.

At the end of the games, I think all coaches take a minute to reflect on all that had just transpired during the previous crazy, hectic, proud and intense days...and a quiet moment like this is what is most needed.

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