By Eddie Keogh
My colleagues now call me the medal man. No, I’ve never won one or even got close but during the 9 days of athletics at the Olympic Stadium in London one of my jobs is to photograph every athlete that wins a medal. The unbridled joy is evident in most cases. Years of blood, sweat and tears have come to fruition and occasionally the emotion of the moment and the playing of their national anthem will bring a tear to the toughest of men and women.
For one man the emotion of the moment was just too much.
The Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez was here to receive a gold medal for winning the 400m hurdles. Four years earlier he received the news of the death of his grandmother on the morning of his heat. Having cried all day he ran badly and failed to get past the first round. He promised that day that he would win a medal for her and now he was fulfilling his promise. Felix cried the moment he arrived to the end of his country’s anthem.
It was a very special moment as his emotion was shown 20 meters wide on the stadium screens and the crowd stood to applaud him. I don’t mind admitting I shed a tear for him too, I doubt I was alone.
Alongside the emotion we need a picture of each winner with their medal so after each ceremony we get the chance to stop the athletes and grab a picture. I’m not 100 per cent sure where the need to bite their medals came from (some say Rafael Nadal started it) but some athletes do it automatically without prompting. If it’s not biting it’s kissing, either way it makes a nice tight picture for the wire.
Its humbling to see these young athletes receive their medals. Through their joy and tears you get a feel for how much this medal means to them. Probably one of the proudest moments of their life, it would be unthinkable of them not to have a picture of their Olympic dream coming true.