They say a picture paints a thousand words. And they’d be right. After all, millions upon millions have been written about the photograph above. It’s become an icon of British success and one of the most famous photos on the planet.
All from a sporting event. You see, sporting events often produce some of the most iconic images in the world, not to mention provide vital insight to an event which has taken place.
So it’s no wonder even in a world where video can be posted online in a moment, images are still a huge deal.
Since the dawn of photography, sport has been covered by reporters, from boxing, to poker, to soccer, to chess, making the front and back pages of the newspapers and going on to become posters adorned on every child’s and bachelor pad’s wall.
We take a look at the best images that have captured a moment right across sport…
During the heat of Nazi Germany, Jesse Owens was breaking boundaries, going against Hitler’s Aryan racial superiority and picking up four gold medals.
However, it was his friendship with German long-jumper Luz Long which created one of the most iconic moments and shows of sportsmanship in history.
Captured above, the pair was going head-to-head in the long-jump. After fouling his first two jumps, Long gave Owens advice on taking off earlier so not to over-step, eventually meaning Owens took Gold away from his counterpart by pushing Long into Silver position.
Long immediately congratulated Owens and the pair walked off arm-in-arm. Owens said of the event, “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler… You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment.”
Fast forward 76 years and the Olympic spirit was in full flow. London 2012 was the first games in which social media had had such a huge impact on society. Iconic images were being tweeted and shared via Facebook, often lost by a sea of hundreds of other snapshots posted online.
However, some still stand strong. There’s Bradley Wiggins on the throne. Michael Phelps standing on the podium, becoming the greatest Olympian in history.And of course Mo Farah and Usain Bolt exchanging their signature celebrations.
It was a summer where thousands of fans were copying the ‘Mobot’ and lightning celebration, and nothing quite captures the spirit of the Olympics than the two athletes paying homage to each other through the celebration. It’s the same value of respect Owens and Long showed each
Ten years on and people are still mentioning this image. In fact it takes little research as it is etched into every sports fans brain.
Taken by Tom Jenkins of The Guardian, it caught a moment of true sportsmanship after a momentous battle after England beat Australia by just two runs at Edgbaston in the second test of the 2005 Ashes series.
It caught the man of the moment, Andrew Flintoff consoling Brett Lee after the Australian pace bowler slogged out 43 not out to try and win the game for his country.
Lee later recalled the moment, saying, “He’s a guy that has given his all, he has been great for world cricket. His sportsmanship is second to none – he’s an absolute beauty.”
However, with the rise of social media and sharable content we’re seeing photos and events become even more accessible. The Ashes photo of 2005 was generally shared via the newspapers and television. Facebook was little over a year old.
This has seen the rise of accessibility to other events which may not get covered in the typical types of media. Poker has benefitted hugely from this, and helped the community expand tremendously.
The above image encapsulates this brilliantly. Taken during a EPT event in London, the images captured by Neil Stoddart show a group of fans mimicking Leo McClean, a player renowned for his ‘snotty-hoodie’ pose.
The image perhaps shows just how far poker has come, with the present day game seeing supporters backing players just as you would see in soccer or baseball stands.
It’s a great shot, capturing both the tension of the game as the fans look on eagle-eyed waiting for a result.
Of course, we have to finish with the shot above. It’s featured twice in this article, and for good reason. It’s quite simply the most iconic sporting photograph of all time.
Taken by John Rooney, as well as Neil Leifer who captured the colour version, it caught the Greatest at his greatest, knocking out Sonny Liston in the first round in their rematch in Lewiston, Maine.
It was one of the most famous fights of all time, with Liston’s knockout being described by many as a fix and described Ali’s punch as a ‘phantom punch’. However, many of the world’s press saw at the time, Ali’s sharp punches caught Liston right on the chin, claiming it was the perfect punch, thus justifying the image above as one of the greatest camera shots in history.
The whole moment passes so quickly. It’s superb camera work to get Ali standing over the former world champion, as in reality it was a lighting quick move before Ali was in his corner and Liston was rolling around.
The power of photography is so important in sporting events, whether they go on to become iconic, or simply form part of a communityin today’s digital world. It’s likely the likes of John Rooney and Tom Jenkins have dined out on those photographs for many years, such is their popularity.
Of course, we’ll only start seeing even more iconic photos developed today. Sporting events have more coverage than ever before and athletes are just as famous. You couldn’t count on two hands the amount of infamous photographs David Beckham has been featured in, nor Tiger Woods. And with a new breed of superstar athletes on the horizon, there will be quite a few more images to add to this list.
For now however, let’s enjoy these classic images. They’ve helped immortalise the likes of Muhammad Ali, Bobby Moore, and Andrew Flintoff, securing their legendary status. But in our eyes too, so have the photographers who took those images.