By Steve Cuff
Snowy Mountain Magazine will be attending the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and will be providing a full daily photo and story coverage on our website, plus in our upcoming snow editions.
This will be my fifth Winter Olympics as an accredited photographer, and partner Sue Ward will be attending her second as an accredited photographer/editor, her first was Sochi 2014.
Starting with the Snowy Mountains Magazine Snow Holiday edition out late March, June Edition and July Edition plus our sister publication’s Alpine News two editions, we will have the best photo and story coverage in 2018. Alpine News will hit the stands in mid-May and late June in Victoria.
We will be in South Korea from the 3rd February for the whole month, and each day we will be updating our website with numerous daily posts, so bookmark www.snowymagazine.com.au now.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the printed editions which could become collectors’ items, or stay tuned for the full Free Digital Editions here.
I have been fortunate during my Winter Olympics, my first in Salt Lake City in 2002 where we captured two gold, and since then have captured every other Australian gold medal in Winter Olympics. The only Australian accredited photographer to do so I believe.
For any athletes reading this post, I would love to add to that tally of gold in the upcoming games, and realistically we have a number of chances, but more on those in future posts in the next few weeks.
Salt Lake City 2002
When I look back at Salt Lake in 2002, I have many fond memories, of course Steven Bradbury won our first gold medal in dramatic circumstances, and what a night it was. Alisa Camplin won gold in the women’s aerials, and I spent the month of the games on the lounge of my good friends Chris and Carolyn Allen in Park City
There was also about 280 stairs, or more (I forget), to climb every night from the media shuttle drop off point to the front door. After about 10 days of this, I finally found a shuttle driver who would drop me at the front door each night. A huge relief after you have been out for the past 18-20 hours taking photos and travelling to venues. The driver was rewarded with some prints of Darren Rhalves, a USA skier in the downhill.
Consider every day you are walking around with virtually all your camera gear on your back, heavy lenses and you have usually left home at 5am, and return at 1am the following day. So those stairs were a bloody nuisance (being polite here).
Who would have thought Australia would have walked away with gold that night in downtown Salt Lake City, in what has gone down in Australian sporting history as one of our greatest sporting moments, summer or winter. Everyone to this day still talks about “The Bradbury”, and it could not have happened to a nicer fellow.
Leading into the final it seemed like Steven just kept getting the good luck and progressing to the next round. Of course, you get excited, and standing on ice level it was electrifying and a great atmosphere. Everyone expected the United States skater Apolo Anton Ohno would win, and realistically Bradbury was going to run 4th.
Even Steven himself admitted he did not have the legs of the younger superstars, but he was there in the final and who knows..?? After all, he had been on the skating circuit for a long time, and was a highly respected skater who also supplied skates to some of the top skaters.
What you do learn when you attend these big events, is there is a hierarchy system. All the big agencies get the best photo positions and the rest of “us” fight for whatever else we can get.
Each venue has a photo manager, and they soon tell you if you are allowed in a given spot, or kick you out. Some give you good advice to be there early to get your position, and offer additional advice, and some don’t care about anything. More on photo managers in future posts.
I don’t remember the skating photo manager’s name, but he was very kind when he knew I was Australian and we had won the gold. I also did my utmost to remind him of that, as the winning nation often gets extra privileges for the ceremonies.
But back to the race, and standing on the side of the track at about the furthest point of the finish line, I was never going to get the best angle for what occurred. But the big thing you need to remember is never take your eye of the action, and keep your finger on the trigger, as short track skating can get exciting. But after countless laps of nothing happening you sort of expected the result to be, “them first” and Bradbury 4th.
Really the whole crowd was stunned when the top three crashed, and Bradbury himself had the look of amazement on his face as he skated past me. Did he win, or would there be a re run as three skaters fell.
The rest is history, and it was panic stations to know what to do next. I had no clue as to procedure, so when they announced there would be a medal ceremony on the ice, the photo manager soon got to know me as I shadowed him to find out what was going to happen next. To his credit, I was on the ice and capturing the moment Steven Bradbury would be recognised as a Gold Medallist at the Winter Olympics.
For a first time Olympics there was a lot going on, one of the favourites in the women’s aerials, Australia’s Jacqui Cooper had an injury and would be out of the finals. To see Jacqui at the press conference in tears made all Australians at the centre tear up. After all, she was a great athlete, probably medal hope and perhaps gold, as she had been a strong performer that season, and a favourite coming into the games.
I was a keen skier and still am, but I remember a few weeks before the games at Whistler Blackcomb where I attended a World Cup aerial lead up event to Salt Lake. The aussie team were all there and a pint sized little pocket rocket named Alisa Camplin had a horrible crash. After leaving the jump and performing her moves she basically fell like a sack of potatoes onto the snow, her landing sequence all out of whack.
At that precise moment I remember thinking, that’s it, where is the ski patrol sled as this girl needs to be escorted off the hill and direct to the medical centre. Surely something is broken, and it looked really bad.
But some ten minutes later she stood up, dusted herself off and went straight back to the top to jump. This moment will stick in my mind forever, just as when she won gold at Deer Valley resort at the Salt Lake City Olympics some weeks later.
Standing front row and blasting away images on the trusty Nikon film camera, (yes film), it was another historic moment in Australian snow sports and Olympic history.
The smile on this girl’s face was infectious, and this blonde hair Australian gold medallist captured the hearts of a nation, and the crowd there that day.
Unbeknown to Alisa, her mother and sister were in the crowd, although they were told not to attend by Alisa. When the family starting yelling at Alisa, the strangest thing happened. Her mother was hand passed over the top of crowd with everyone saying, it’s her mother….. They hugged at the finish in another great moment.
This might always be my favourite Olympic Gold medal, and the following year Alisa would win the World Championship at the same venue. This was another event I was proud to capture her success and the reason I still love Deer Valley resort today.
After the Olympics though, Alisa Camplin was diagnosed with two fractured ankles and doctors were surprised she could even jump. Realistically she probably should not have competed, but the toughness shown on that fall at Blackcomb summed up Alisa Camplin to me…!! A fighter…..
After both gold medals had been presented the duo were treated like royalty in Salt Lake City, and even had the pleasure of being interviewed on the Jay Lenno show. Courtesy of a roof top studio with a stunning mountain backdrop, they spent the morning being prepared for TV and the interview.
Sorry Brad Wall, our giant slalom alpine racer, but I had to miss your first GS run due to the rooftop photo for the Sunday Telegraph. But I did get your second run after a hurried getaway back to the mountains from downtown.
Over the coming days we will provide some more insights to our current crop of athletes and a few more flashbacks of my Winter Olympic memories.
Feel free to share the post to your friends and stay tuned for South Korea, it should be exciting stuff for the Australian team.