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04/17/2012

Randy Starkman

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer - @RussellPhotos

I guess it was fitting that when colleague Randy Starkman passed away today, I was shooting a story about an Olympic athlete that he would have loved.

I came back from that inspirational assignment to a quiet newsroom, mourning our friend. It is numbing, two weeks ago I was in Montreal with Randy covering the Olympic Swim Trials.

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Randy Starkman takes notes on the mats as the Canadian Tramplone team trains in Toronto. March 7, 2012.

When I came to the Star Randy was one of the reporters I looked most forward to working with. I was lucky over the next decade and a half to work with him a lot.

I learned that Randy was not just a good reporter, but a great person. Athletes opened up to him and welcomed him into their homes. The cooked him dinner. He took us photographers along with him. Always making sure to introduce us with a little bio, mine went back to my days of swimming with Alex Baumann.

If an athlete was nervous Randy was quick to tell a personal story to help ease the athlete, he did this for good stories and the more difficult ones.

I was fortunate enough to travel with Randy quite a bit. He was fun to work with, liked a good laugh and told some great stories. Even if you had an argument with him on a trip, the next day we started with a clean slate.

The photographers at the Star respected him, Randy always had great story ideas, his ideas for pictures sometimes left a little to be desired, but, those ideas opened up other ideas. He was also quick to tip a photographer off to a fact that might make a picture.

Randy would do everything to help out, he didn't mind holding a light, flag, reflector or even sit in to help with a portrait.

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Randy sits in for Cindy Klassen during a photo session at the Calgary Olympic Oval.

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Randy was always willing to sit in as I looked for photo ideas, like this at the Olympic sliding centre in Calgary.

He was the master of staying out of the frame, I never worried about Randy being in my line of sight when photographing a practice or following an athlete in their home.

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You don't see Randy in this picture of Canadian Olympians Sarah Renner and Thomas Grandi outside their Canmore, Alberta home. He is just to the left holding my flash. The couple welcomed Randy (us) into their home, Grandi cooked for Randy (us).

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If you look closely in the glasses on Speed Skater Jeremy Wotherspoon you can see Randy's fingers holding up flag.

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Randy's instincts were second to none, at the 2006 Olympics he asked me if I thought it would be worth the effort to get into Team Canada's wax house to photograph the famous ski pole Sara Renner broke in her silver medal run with Becky Scott. I jumped at the chance. Before I ran off Randy looking at the weather, wet and drizzly, told me to get pictures of the technicians waxing Becky Scott's skis. Becky would finish out of the medals, coaches, technician Laurent Roux, and Becky said it was because she missed her wax. Starkman had the story.

While Randy might have written stories that some might not have liked, nobody could say that it was wrong. Randy did not just write the fluff stories about amateur sport, athletes, coaches, parents, and officials respected him and often called him with tips. Randy's stories got action. 

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Randy Risling captured Randy Starkman taking a few snaps with his plastic camera while covering a story about Adam Van Koeverden in Algonquin Park. Adam's tribute to Randy

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Randy Starkman counts his stack after taking the Canadian mens Freestyle Aerial team in a game of Texas Hold'em poker after a day of practice at the Club de ski acrobatique Le Relais in Lac Beauport north of Quebec City. 

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Randy Starkman with Hugh Finlay, the father of Scott Finlay who suffered a devastating brain injury in a downhill ski event in Lake Louise in 1978. Randy's work helped raise thousands of dollars towards having a home built in the Napanee area for people living with brain injuries. Read Randy's story on Scott Finlay here

 The Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, they brought him into talk to the 2006 Olympic team in Lake Louise about developing a media strategy as the games approached. Randy was not allowed to interview any of the athletes during our stay but he made sure to negociate a picture for our Olympic Special Section.

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Thomas Grandi, Jeffrey Buttle, Jennifer Heil, Steve Omischl and Cindy Klassen.

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Randy enjoys a glass of water while mugging for the camera in Lake Louise.

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Randy paid me a huge compliment after the 2006 Olympics, the Star team was to write about their favourite Olympic moment, I wrote about Chandra Crawford's surprise Gold in the Ladies Sprint skiing. Randy had written about the same thing. He killed his story after reading mine, he slapped my shoulder saying, "Crap Russell, you just wrote me out of the paper" At the next two Olympics we would cover he always checked what my Olympic moment was  and joked that he did not want to go up against me again!

As the tributes to Randy roll in we see how highly regarded he is as a reporter and person.

Professionally Randy had a lot to be proud of, but he was most proud of his daughter Ella. Over the years I heard him tell athletes about her exploits, I waited in souvenir shops as he looked for the perfect gift for her, I smiled I listened into his phone calls to her while we were on the road.

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Randy, a volunteer at the Dovercourt Boys and Girls club, was constantly doing things for kids. He brought a school's Flat Stanley to Turin in 2006 and had athletes pose with it for dispatches back to the school. Here Paul Boehm, Jeff Pain and Duff Gibson pose with Stanley after finishing fourth, silver and gold in the skeleton. Stanley would make the trip to Beijing as well.

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Chris So captured this typical Randy Starkman moment, reading from a children's book (Bedtime for Frances) which be brought and gave to Aria Renner, then 2 years old. Aria is the first child of Olympic medalist Sara Renner and world Cup Champion Thomas Grandi. Starkman was a sucker for kids, in Montreal the object of his affection was Swimming Canada Martin Richard's newborn, holding the child any chance he got. When I left Randy in Montreal he was waiting for a cab to go visit a friend talking excitedly about playing hockey with his friend's kids.

He was an okay lightstand, good travel companion, great colleague, awesome father, and even more amazing person.

Other great tributes to Randy Starkman,

Clara Hughes, she is without a doubt Randy's favourite athlete, he fund so much inspiration in her.

Rosie DiManno

Doug Smith

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Randy Starkman 1960-2012

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