Rio 2016 Olympic Experience

Four photographers share a few thoughts about their Rio 2016 Olympic experience.


John Lehmann / The Globe and

Like all Olympics, with athletes performing at their best and emotions running high, the days are full of incredible moments. Looking back however at this Summer Games, it’s not one moment that stands out but rather the individual Brazilians I met during my long days over three weeks here on assignment.

Of the six Olympics I have now covered, this was by far the most relaxed. Sure some of the venues were old and some were unfinished and the photo positions were often in frustrating spots but the people of Brazil made up for the shortfall left by the organizing committee.

As a photojournalist or sports photographer covering the Olympics, you’re constantly looking for, and shooting, athletes at the peak of their performance. You’re also looking for an image that shows the emotional high of winning or the silence of defeat.

I also like to shoot the quiet moments before the events. Athletes often arrive several days early to practice and it’s often a great opportunity for better access when there aren’t hordes of other media around.

I arrived early one morning to cover Team Canada’s women’s eight rowing team and managed to arrange for access into an area not normally granted to photographers. The great access and picturesque rowing venue backlit by the beautiful morning light all added up to one of my more memorable images of the women’s eight leaving the dock.


Jason Ransom / Team Canada – Canadian Olympic

Dedication, passion and effort.

Olympic photographers and Olympic athletes share a few things in common.

Photographers and athletes need to be technically perfect, focused and sharp. We have game plans to execute. Our hearts will race when the crowd grows silent. We love what we do. Photographers and athletes may experience a lot of the same emotions but a closer look at the common denominators also highlights the biggest difference – the pressure to perform.

Photographers get upset with themselves for bad exposures and soft frames. We yell at officials who block our view. Lost bus drivers, poorly thought-out photo positions and bad internet all cause photographers stress. But our pressures pale in comparison to the athletes’ pressures.

We don’t represent whole countries. We don’t have family, friends or coaches who have sacrificed a lot of themselves for us to pursue our goals. We also don’t have media asking us “what happened?”, right after anything less than a personal best performance.

Recognizing the significant difference in pressure is the foundation for my own modus operandi – to document the participation of as many of my country’s athletes as possible with passion and effort. I owe them that much for all that they have put into their sport.

Some days require more effort than others. The days are doggedly long. Best guess: fourteen-hour shifts would be the norm. Language barriers, logistical challenges and trying to eat properly can also drain the passion tank pretty quickly. However all of the day’s challenges are forgotten when the athlete you’re following makes the podium.

It’s an amazing experience to witness a gold medal performance and to hear your national anthem being played during a medal ceremony. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This experience and all that comes with it is what fuels my passion for making the best pictures I can of our talented athletes.


Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian

Covering an Olympic Games is a gruelling task. But it is all worth it when you experience and capture the emotion of an athlete. All the training and hard work they put in comes down to mere seconds or inches.

As a Canadian wire photographer assigned to cover Canadian athletes, nothing makes you feel more pride than when they make it to the top. To be there is exhilarating.

A great part of our approach in covering our country’s performance is the variety. The Canadian Press photo team was just three people for the Rio games. Myself, I covered over eight different sports. It’s very exciting to shoot this many top level athletes and at the top of their game in such a short period of time. It’s fun. It’s dynamic. It’s adrenalin inducing.

Another great thing that happens at an Olympic Games is the camaraderie amongst photographers. It’s a blast to meet and work alongside fellow colleagues from all over the world.


Jean Levac /

Rio 2016 was my sixth Olympic Games and they did not disappoint. It’s a marathon. You are always overjoyed when it’s over but when you get home you can’t wait to start another one.

I didn’t get to shoot a big variety of sports due to media transport system issues. But the Usain Bolt – Andre de Grasse bromance sure made up for it. I’m not sure if we will ever see that again. It was terrific to have the Canadian angle to the Bolt story.


A few more Rio Olympic photos are at


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