46th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships – Glasgow Scotland
I had the privilege of covering the 46th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, held in Glasgow, Scotland for European Press Photo Agency (EPA), an annual ten day event showcasing the best gymnasts in the world. I had never covered gymnastics before and neither had my Glasgow based EPA colleague Robert Perry so we came in to this event with fresh eyes.
I arrived late on day one, picked up my passes and met Robert and other colleagues I knew from my earlier years when I was an Edinburgh based photographer. The venue was the SSE Hydro next to the River Clyde. I acclimatised my self with the place and found out the ares that we could and could not shoot from. Though we had great access our immediate problem was how to achieve a clean picture. The backgrounds where messy with the exception of little slithers of black where, of course, all photographers culminated.
I began covering the event fully on the second day, which was day two of the Women’s qualifiers. Starting at 9:15 am and ending at 22:45 the day was divided into six sessions where teams would preform on all the apparatus. The women sessions covered: The Beam, Vault, Uneven Bars and The Floor.
One thing I realised quickly was that the full time gymnastics photographers were all shooting with 300mm f2.8 lenses and some with 200mm f2 lenses. I realised why as I lifted my 400mm to my eye. The frame was somewhat tight and I found my self losing heads and feet as the gymnasts ran and jumped both all over and in and out of the picture. As I have never shot gymnastics I had to learn to predict their movements, much as I had to when I first began shooting football and rugby…something I now do with relative ease. By the end of my first day I felt I had mastered it but I was then to learn that day three was the start of the men’s events and my colleagues told me with great amusement that they go faster and higher and on different apparatus to the women.
Day three commenced like the last and I found i was having to learn everything all over again. With the men competing on the Parallel bars, Rings, Horizontal Bars, Floor and Pommel Horse I found my pictures were entirely different. They have less grace but more brute force and even in my stills you can see a stark distinction.
With EPA’s clients requesting coverage from many nations competing we had a lot of work on our hands. While many photographers were solely to covering the more dominant nations in gymnastics, we were combining those with other nations so that our clients might showcase there participation in the Gymnastics World Championship in magazines and newspapers in there own countries.
As you can imagine, it all boiled down to the to the final four days. This was when all medals were awarded for the different aspects of the competition such as team finals, all around individual achievement and apparatus specific medals. This year Japan and the United States of America dominated in the men’s and women’s competition respectively.
When I first arrived I was told to keep my eye out for two competitors; Kohei Uchimura of Japan and Simone Biles of the US. These foresights were not wrong. These two athletes were, in my opinion, leaps and bounds above their competition and when it came to the final days it truly showed with them collecting seven gold medals between them.
After ten days of gymnastics (made more important by the fact that it guaranteed some teams and individuals a spot in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio) it drew to a close. The whole event was amazing to witness. In the past I have watched olympic gymnastics many times on the television and always enjoyed it, but I’ve have obviously never seen it up close, until now. I am not exactly blessed with height but most girls in this competition were considerably shorter than me. The men where probably about my height which is not conveyed when you are watching on television. In general they look huge and powerful. So to see them jump so high, flip so powerfully and spin so fast, and to watch it all through my camera lens was a true honour and enjoyment.