Olympic ski smash highlights the perils of sports photography

olympic ski smash perils sports photography lara gut  sean m haffey

A group of professional photographers at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang this week found themselves caught up in the action when a skier lost control and slammed right into them.

It happened as Swiss competitor Lara Gut competed in the women’s giant slalom at the end of last week. TV cameras captured the incident, and show Gut falling before sliding at speed into a group of photographers positioned off to the side of the course.

The footage shows Gut piling into the shooters and knocking several of them over.

We’re happy to say that there were no reports of injuries, but looking at the video footage, it clearly could have been more serious.

As you’d expect with professional photographers covering a major event, they kept on shooting even as Gut hurtled toward them, though at that point they probably never imagined the 26-year-old skier was going to slam into them in the way that she did.

The incident happened in the blink of an eye, but Getty Images photographer Sean M. Haffey, who was in the group, caught a dramatic shot (above) of Gut a split second before the smash.

The Swiss competitor told Reuters afterwards that she was fine. “I asked the photographer if he was OK too and he said he was,” Gut said, adding, “I think it’s getting scary to be a photographer on skiing hills.”

The perils of sports photography

For the safety of the competitors as well as photographers, those covering sports events are told by organizers precisely where they can position themselves, and where they can set up remote cameras. But despite the strict rules, accidents still occur from time to time.

At an athletics event in 2016, for example, a pro photographer shooting shot puttersassumed he was in a safe spot, positioning himself behind some netting. But the athlete’s throw was so imprecise that the eight-pound shot went off to the side, hitting the photographer square on the shin.

There have been a ton of other incidents over the years, some of which we pulled together for a piece highlighting the hazards of being a professional sports photographer.