Xianying Liu #51 and Chunli Wang #50 of China lead Madara Liduma #57 of Latvia during the Women’s 10km Pursuit Biathlon at Whistler Olympic Park. Since I had my rain covers on I accidentally overexposed on my manual camera setting which blew out the ice made for a picture. (Photo by Donald Miralle)
After I was woken at 6am by Getty Senior Staff Photographer Doug Pensinger telling me that Alpine was cancelled for the day due to weather, my day immediately changed to covering the Women’s Biathlon and Luge Finals. Being flexible and changing things at the drop of the hat is part of covering an event like the Winter Olympics where so many events can be cancelled or postponed because of weather. I had some great experiences at both of those events in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Torino in 2006 when I was a staffer at Getty Images, so I wasn’t too bummed about the quick change.
Magdelena Gwizdon #35 and Weroniko Novakowska #36 of Poland shot through some foliage
When we arrived to the Biathlon venue, huge snowflakes were falling and the trees were blanketed in a layer of snow – it looked like a winter wonderland. After some tips on the course from Getty’s Lars Moeller, I walked the course with Al Bello looking for the best angles for the race. Working with these guys when I was on staff with them and now even as a stringer for Getty has always been a pleasure, and I love opportunities like this when you have the time to check out the lay of the land and bounce ideas off each other. It is essential to when you are doing a biathlon or a race like a triathlon to have a game plan with shooting positions mapped out because you are always one step behind the athletes and only have a very limited amount of times and passes to get the photos you need, especially if you want to get to the finish line to catch the winners. The Women’s 10 km Pursuit takes less that an hour and the race course is spread over the rolling hills with difficult terrain and trees to traverse, so this was definitely the case today.
A general view of competitors gliding down hill
For those of you not privy to the rules of a Biathlon, athletes must complete a certain amount of laps on a closed course filled with hills and winding terrain, and at the end of each lap go to the shooting range. There they have to quickly slow their heart down (usually from about 185bpm to 160bpm in a matter of seconds so they can steady themselves to shoot targets). If they miss targets they are penalized and have to do a loop on the penalty track before re-entering the course. It is a gnarly sport, with a lot of crazy athletes some of which have military experience, and it’s great to watch. Spectators cheer wildly when targets are hit or missed and watch their countrymen push themselves until they collapse at the finish line.
After the finishing the race and getting a couple pics along the way, I shot over to the Women’s Luge final. This event isn’t for the weak of heart, and after the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritachvili earlier in the week, many realized how dangerous this sport really is. Lugers careen down the icy course with speeds in excess of 95 miles per hour, and banks and sudden turns with 5G’s of force on a tiny sled and with just a helmet to protect them. It is really a crazy sport. After quickly checking into the media center, and hearing what the course was like from a couple photogs, I decided to shoot the bottom of the course where the sliders go into an area called the Thunderbird, a huge banking right hand turn where they are high enough up on the track that they are visible and it makes for a photo. I found myself panning a shot next to British Getty Images Ace Veterans Shaun Botterill (Chief Photographer UK) and Clive Mason (an unbelievable motorracing and all-around sports photographer) which made time pass quicker and made me feel better about missing my 15th of a second pans. I got one frame that I was happy with, which was all I hoping for, and jetted back down the hill to prepare for the Women’s Downhill with Lindsay Vonn in the morning…