This shot is taken from what is generally referred to as “the react spot.” When the 100 or 200-meter race is run at a big event such as the Olympics, the runners cross the finish line at full speed, but there is no room for them to keep running straight to slow down. There are television cameras and still photographers. So, they follow the track and run around the turn. I usually set up 30 or so yards from the finish line, almost to the apex. They are traveling so fast that any jubilation happens while they are still moving, hopefully right at me.
This was taken at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It is from the 200-meter race. Bolt had won the 100-meter race a few nights previously but didn’t react very well at all. In the 200 meters he was picked to win, but not break the world record set by Michael Johnson in Atlanta in 1996. There was a clock right at the finish line and when he looked down and saw that he had in fact broken the world record, he exploded with joy.
This is an all or nothing shot. I have been trying to make pictures from this spot since the 1988 Seoul Olympics, including Olympic trials and other big meets. In that time, I’d say I’ve made three or four outstanding frames. That’s a low percentage, but when you do get something, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mk III
Lens: Canon EF 300mm f2.8L IS USM
Exposure: f2.8 2 1/1600, ISO 1600