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From 145 km/h to zero braking with your toes

Steve Russell/Staff Photographer

With Canada in the hunt for medals in the Men's and Women's skeleton we decided to double team the final runs.

Bernie got to the track early while I covered the women's cross country 15 km pursuit and then raced out of there to make it to the sliding track to find a back up angle to Bernie.

Bernie had arrived at the track very early to stake out a spot in an ideal position were he had a view of the athletes coming in, breaking, walking back with their sleds and then going to the finish house to watch the other riders.

I grabbed a spot that covered a couple of Bernie blind spots.

I positioned myself with a view straight down the braking chute, so when the athletes passed Bernie I still had a view of their faces. And when the camera man chased them down the course, blocking Bernie, the Star still had a view of the athlete. My position was a challenge, I arrived near the end of the women's third run, late!

Kerstin Szymkowiak of Germany crosses the finish line and sees that she is guarenteed a medal, she ended up with silver.

There were already about 20 some photographers in that spot. 

I could have been a little closer to the track but I was looking for a straight on view to make the most of my positioning and the pictures a little cleaner.

Mellisa Hollingsworth is consolled by her coach, you can see the camera man that blocks Bernie on the left. 

Thankfully there was a road behind the photo position and I walked up about 10 metres behind the photo pit and was high enough to have a clear view of the finishing track. 

After finishing the third run, the area began to fill with photographers and I had to maintain my photo position to protect it from the late comers who would try to set up in the gap and block my view.

The position worked well for the women's final run, unfortunately our Canadian did not. I filed from my position so I could keep an eye on late comers.

A lot of photographers left after the women's final but it was dark and the temperatures began to drop. The photographer in front of me put on a toque that increased his height by about ten centimetres, I could not see as much of the track as I would of liked.

I did not want to move further up the hill, I was already pretty far back for the 400 with a 1.4x converter.

So I ran to the side and picked up some rock to stand on. 

I had to stand on those shaky rocks for the entire third and fourth runs.

In the end it worked, Bernie scored A1 with a tight picture of men's gold medalist Jon Montgomery, I scored the sports front with a picture of him breaking!

Canadian Jeff Pain hits the braking padding at the end of his track in his last competitive run, he retires after the games.

Jeff Pain greets the crowd, for the most part all the skeleton athletes get up from their rides and celebrate, maybe its the adrenaline left over from going down the track at 145 km/h with their chin inches from the ice. 

Adam Pengilly of Great Britian hits the pads after his final run, you can see the little spikes in his shoes that they need for the start.

Kazuhiro Koshi from Japan slide into the finish  in the final run of the men's skeleton at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Italian Nicola Drocco hops on his sled surfer style in the run off area.

Kiwi Ben Sandford is not impressed with his final run of the men's skeleton.

Jon Montgomery arrives with a Gold medal winning time in the final run of the men's skeleton.

Jon Montgomery celebrates winning the gold medal  in the final run of the men's skeleton at the Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler.

The stone that I used to improve my photo position.


Steve Russell on the Rocks! I guess it is fitting, I am from Sudbury, What we can't see is the main pit up front. Thanks to John for the pictures.

See a gallery of Jon Montgomery winning





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Steve, you ROCK! ...pun intended :-)
Keep up the great work, the photos are totally awesome! And thank you and the other guys/gals to still find the time to keep this blog going.

Where was your footstool/ladder? Doesn't every news pro carry a foldable one? It would have been a lot more stable. That lens, $7K, D3s $5k x 2 or 3, 32gig ultra IV card $500 x 4. The mono pod is a handy tool for stray dogs and competing photogs (especially if their first name is Boris).

Good point Muskokaphotog!
I wish I would have brought a little footstool.
But with the amount of gear we are carrying around, straw, welcome to the camel's back!
I thought about carrying a little footstool, in fact, I brought a hard case to sit/stand on.
But the trip to the finish house for me that day was as follows,
Bus from hotel to Main Press Centre Vancouver (MPC),
Bus from MPC to Whistler Press Centre (WPC)
Bus to Whistler Olympic Park hub (to cover cross country)
Shuttle from Hub to venue press centre
Walk from Venue press centre to venue (Stairs!)
Walk, shuttle, bus back to WPC!
Walk from WPC to gondola to entrance to Whistler Sliding Centre.
Shuttle to media centre, walk to finish house.
Quite the haul for one day, I tried to keep my pack as light as I could, and part of the job is making stuff up along the way.
Before I left I felt that the stepstool was a little too much!
Also, 32 gig cards are a little much, I use a combo of 4 and 8 gig cards.
A little easier to manage, quicker to upload we try to go for Extreme type cards that have super fast write speeds and are quicker to down load.
And yes, monopods are great for keeping those angry dogs away!

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