Spirit of a champion

Last week I was assigned to shoot with Olympic Judo athlete Kayla Harrison. This girl is amazing. She’s been doing Judo since she was a little kid and quickly became a national and international contender. She’s 21 now, and has two world medals, winning gold and bronze in consecutive World Judo Championships. This was my first glimpse of the sport of Judo and it’s really interesting visually. It’s really a full-contact sport, almost more like wrestling than martial arts. Also, she can throw full-grown men over her shoulder.

But her story, while inspiring, is complicated. She’s dealt with challenges that are becoming more and more familiar in youth sports: sexual abuse by a coach. She is not just physically strong, but also emotionally and mentally. Now, having left all that pain behind, she is looking forward to the 2012 Olympic games in London, and on August 2, plans to be the first American to ever win the gold medal in Judo.

Check out her story here….

I shot this with the Canon 7D. The only lenses available to me were a 16-35mm and a 55mm (old Nikon with a Canon mount). I definitely wish I had had a longer lens because shooting details of such intense physical action was difficult. Getting too close proved to be dangerous several times. Having never shot martial arts of any kind, it was a steep learning curve. My strategy ended up being to just let the match unfold, rather than think in sequences. Greater shot variety and more voices would have made this piece better all-around.