Yes. My first World Championships in Kazakhstan when watching three World Records stood down in the 105 class with Ilya, Nurudinov, and Bedzhanyan from Russia, watching three World Records get popped. Then watching Ilya on his last lift after missing his second clean and jerk, successful clean and jerk to win the World Championship.
That was insane. That was goose bump insane. His coach, Toyshan, his wife and I became friends on that trip. It was like, you felt you were part of the Ilya fan club. You felt like you were part of their success, one of their team. They welcomed you in. That one, to me, was electrifying.
The first session in Rio, the 56 class when the Chinese, Long…I don’t even know how to pronounce his name. He wins on the last lift against Om Yun Chul. You’re like, “Oh my God, this is the Olympics.” I watched this go down. I’m at the Olympics. I’m in the sea of Getty, Reuters, and AP guys. All the bad asses in the industry.
One of the guys that I was shooting with from Reuters was with a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer from the year before. You’re talking about the world’s best, and you’re sitting there. I’m like, “How did I get here? I don’t even understand this.” After a while, it’s sad to say that you get a little numb to it. It becomes like, “OK, I’m covering it. That was cool, but when’s the next session?”
Watching Salini in Rio argue with the officials, go out to the jury table, and get upset at the head juror, and I like, “When does this happen?” You couldn’t stop Salini. Everyone’s chanting, “Shame on you.”
The whole Brazilian like Army or Marines, whatever branch, they were come out with machine guns, surrounding the platform because they weren’t sure if the Iranian fans are going to storm out of their seats and start throwing things. They’re mobbing.
Nobody knew what was happening. It was insane, and you’re like, “This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m covering this.” World Record performances are cool, but the stories to me, like those moments were cooler.
Watching Figueroa from Colombia, win his first gold medal, watching him cry on the platform. You’re talking like these athletes put in their years and years of hard work, their entire lives for a piece of metal, which is insane.
You’re like, “Wow, it’s a metal. It’s just a metal.” That’s what we’re going for, but it means the world to him. It could mean their future and their country if they get paid in…Look at Diaz. I’m watching Hidilyn Diaz from the Philippines when the first gold ever in the history of the country, not in the history of the sport, in the entire country.
Then watching Meso win the first gold medal for Qatar. Then they had a high jumper. A few days later, a high jumper shared the gold for Qatar, too. Their second. It was being a part of that and having Meso text you after him like, “Let’s go party. Let’s celebrate this gold medal.” You’re like, “Wow, I’m a part of this thing.”
Being a part of all the volunteers, all the technical officials, all the people that make the sport go, all the years that they spent, I’m just a guy that jumped in seven years ago, and gets to be a part of the craziest ride where people spent 30 years to get there. I’m blessed and fortunate. I’m just happy to be there and help share the experiences through photography with these people.
These are memories that they’ll have forever, and it’s because of photos. Your brains are only going to work for so long, but these memories will last forever. I’m really proud that I’m able to do that for the sport and represent at the highest level. It’s amazing to me.