Inspirational stories, amazing storytelling: here are the winning works of AIPS Sport Media Awards 2022
The fifth edition of the AIPS Sport Media Awards came to a conclusion with a stunning gala in the capital of South Korea. It was not just a celebration, but also a reunion, in difficult times, as we continue to build bridges in sports and culture. “If everybody is closed in himself, there’s no solution. Sport is hope and can find solutions in the society,” said AIPS president Gianni Merlo in his opening speech, as he showed the map of finalists and special mentions. “Look how far we’ve made it, all around the world”. The five continents are represented in this true media festival that has no equal, as it allows works in all languages to compete for free, prompting a result of 1830 submissions from 138 different countries, judged over five voting stages until reaching the podium.
Present at the ceremony, the 27 winners had produced compelling stories that were relevant, original, beautiful told and had an impact. Let’s have a look.
AIPS Award 2021 winner Maziyar Koopidar (Iran) won again in the video short category with the emotional story of Zohreh Koudaei, who made the headlines not for sporting reasons. The goalkeeper of Iran’s women national team had to plow her way through difficulties all her life, but found herself facing an unprecedented challenge, when Jordan requested a “gender verification check” as they accused her of being a man. This powerful story features an interview with Koudaei and goes deeper into a taboo subject.
Michael Stypulkoski and David Swartz (USA) claimed the second place with A Face for her People: Rosalie Fish (CBS Sports). The 22-year-old Rosalie Fish, who grew up on the Muckleshoot Reservation in Washington, experienced bullying and abuse due to her heritage when she attended public school; at the age of 14, she attempted to take her own life. As she recovered on the reservation, she discovered running as a way to cope. In 2019, she entered the Washington State High School Track Championships and painted a red handprint over her face to represent indigenous women who had been silenced. After once feeling ashamed of her heritage, she now has become a face for her people in the fight for native women to be seen and respected.
Adam Pretty (Australia, 1st place in Portfolio 2018 and 2020, 2nd place in 2019) made a fantastic debut in the video category claiming the third place with Bo Kramer, a member of the Orange Lions wheelchair basketball team, the current Paralympic Champions, World Champions and European Champions. Bo was diagnosed with bone cancer aged 11 and needed major life changing surgery on her legs. Her experience in conquering cancer has shaped her journey not just as an elite athlete, but in what she plans to do with her life.
VIDEO ATHLETE PROFILE
Nikolaus Mahatsek (Austria) claimed the first prize with MAXimum Verstappen, the Flying Dutchman. Crowned World Champion at the age of 24, Max was provided with racing driver genes on both his mother's and father's side. And went through a particularly tough school. How Max became what he has been since December 12, 2021 is shown in the documentary, broadcast on Servus TV, in which friends, relatives and companions have their say - and which clarifies the question of what a lonely gas station in Italy contributed to his character formation.
Nicolas Delloye (France) told the story of Donovan Carrillo for Olympic Channel. Living with his coach, Gregorio Núñez, a father-like figure, to further his training. Together, they have overcome huge obstacles including lack of resources, funding and recent COVID restrictions to finally qualify for the Games, becoming the first Mexican skater in 30 years. To see him train in a shopping mall because that’s the only ice track available is very touching. This profile was part of a series of winter athletes ahead of Beijing 2022.
Joanne Mitchell, Tania Page (New Zealand) made The Real Ruby, the story of Ruby Tui (TVNZ). Surviving, barely, a childhood filled with neglect, Ruby made a decision, a choice, to not to let her upbringing limit her. Despite domestic violence, drugs, and attempted suicide, she has become one of the most successful women's rugby players in the world.
With Croatia: Defining a Nation (FIFA+), AIPS Awards winner Louis Myles (UK, 1st place in Documentary 2020) claimed his second trophy by telling the story of a bright generation of players (Zvoimir Boban, Robert Prosinečki, Igor Štimac and Davor Suker, among others) during the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the birth of the country that they loved, Croatia. Whilst the players did not fight on the frontline, they carried their nations hopes on their shoulders - promoting Croatia to the world as it fought for its independence. And when the fighting ended, their talent on the football pitch brought joy to their people - establishing the identity of the country, and the blueprint for all that followed them.
Benjamin Unger (Germany) came second with Olympics 1972: The GDR and the terror.
Fifty years after Munich 1972, this NDR documentary takes us back but with a twist, uncovering the strategy of the German Democratic Republic, between success and terror. Two years before the Olympics, the State security started to pick out the tourist delegation. Each traveller had to be pre-approved and intensely screened. At least 300 unofficial Stasi employees travelled to Munich. It was going to be the first time the GDR competed for with a flag and anthem. When on September 5, 1972, the terrorist organization “Black September” invaded the quarters of the Israeli team storms and took eleven hostages, the world was appalled. Terror at the Olympics. People in the GDR were also stunned – but for different reasons. The assassination threatened to overshadow their own team.
David Tryhorn (UK) claimed the third prize with The Figo affair: The transfer that changed football, an in-depth Netflix documentary that takes us back to the transfer saga of the Portuguese star from Barcelona to Real Madrid, with fantastic footage and access to Figo and the men who brokered the deal that shattered the transfer record, divided a nation and shaped modern footbal.
PHOTO SPORT ACTION
The first prize was for John Walton (UK) for PA Media. Flying into the Crowd depicts the crash in the Men's 15km Scratch Race Qualifying Round as England's Matt Walls (no.29) goes over the barrier into the crowd and Canada's Derek Gee (no.15) rides the outside wall at Lee Valley VeloPark on day three of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in London. A fantastic image full of gestures, action and fear.
Andrew Couldridge (UK), captured the precise moment of the punch of Derek Chisora v Kubrat Pulev for Action Images via Reuters. What a punch indeed! It’s difficult not to feel the pain. Xavier Bonilla (Spain) took another decisive moment when Guanyu Zhou of Alfa Romeo crashed at the start of the race during the Formula 1 British Grand Prix 2022 on Silverstone, for DPPI and the halo saved his life.
Oliver Scarff (UK) won the first prize with the underwater sequence of the rescue of US swimmer Anita Alvarez in the free artistic swimming finals in Budapest. Shot for AFP, the five pictures showing when she sinks, unconscious, and then how coach Andrea Fuentes dived into the pool to rescue her, before anyone else noticed, were reproduced and published all over the world.
Dario Belingheri (Italy) also reached the podium with the beauties of cycling, showing vivid and perfectly taken photos from the coast of Liguria to the mountains of Oman. Ezra Shaw (USA) submitted an impressive collection of images from 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
WRITING BEST COLUMN
Alaa Abdel-Ghani (Egypt) became the first African and the first Arabic-speaking to reach the final in the Best Column category, and ended up winning the first prize with his Overseas Aid in Ahram newspaper, as he explores how much success the plan of bringing a foreign national team coach might have. A witty column with information, knowledge, sarcasm and sense of humour. A story of pride, strategy and many mistakes in the past, that goes beyond football as it paints the reality of the Egyptian culture.
Marcela Mora y Araujo (Argentina) returned to the podium with her opinion piece previewing the World Cup in Qatar and its many layers. With a fresh perspective and broad mind, she scrutinises both FIFA structures, Qatar and the so-called progressist Western media.
And Morgan Campbell (Canada) reflected on the reasons why Brittney Griner, the WNBA athlete detained in Russia, was in Russia in the first place. Shocking wage disparity between men and women force many female basketball players to search for better job opportunities. For players like Griner, a contract in Russia means a seven-figure salary and a chance at generational wealth.
WRITING COLOUR PIECE
Bernt Jakob Oksnes (1st place in Best Colour Piece in 2020), John Rasmussen, Jorun Gaarder and Oyvind Godø (Norway) were crowned with the fantastic work part of A Sick Skiing Nation (Dagbladet), depicting 82 stories showing the prevalence of eating disorders in Norwegian cross-country skiing. In the article selected to compete, a 15-year old girl states that she eats 500 calories a day and asks a specialist: “Can I die?”. Validated psychological tests performed by the newspaper revealed that 30 % of the cross-country skiing girls suffers from disordered eating. After the publications Norway has changed the education of ski coaches. Public apologies are issued to skiers who were pressured into weight loss by coaches. The parliament has also opened investigations.
Adam Williams (USA) won the second prize with the sports feature published in The New York Times about two indigenous women's softball teams in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula that play softball barefoot while wearing colourful hand-embroidered huipil dresses, the traditional attire of their Mayan culture. The Diablillas and Amazonas are challenging gender stereotypes and a culture of machismo in their villages. The story brought attention to these brave women and their love of softball.
The third place, and first time for an African to reach the podium of this category, was for Josiane Kouagheu Chemou (Cameroon), with a crude painting of the harsh reality from the north of Cameroon (Le Monde Afrique). Since 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram has been multiplying attacks there, killing residents, kidnapping children and adults and looting homes. During the 2022 African Cup of Nations, the author wanted to see how these men, women and children, living in this part of the country that continues to suffer from Boko Haram attacks, were living the football competition.
Jessica Halloran, Jasper Leak, James Graham, Claire Harvey, Lia Tsamoglou (Australia) were crowned winners with Head Noise, a fantastic podcast in which the Australian Rugby League superstar James Graham discovers the truth about what football has done to his brain - and faces up to deeply confronting questions about risk, reward, masculinity and responsibility. James Graham is one of the hardest men in rugby league. He’s also the first NRL player to announce he’ll donate his brain to science, and has begun exploring exactly what damage his brain has sustained and how he can delay the onset of dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Moritz Cassalette (Germany) produced Jan Ullrich, temporary hero, the 1997 Tour de France winner that couldn’t do it again. The talent of the century in cycling was too undisciplined, turning in the doping carousel, had to resign, got deeper and deeper into a downward spiral. Alcohol and drug abuse ruined the marriage of the father of four and brought him to the brink of death. How did that happen? This podcast tells the story of a fallen hero in seven episodes.
Kayley Thomas, Jenny Johnson, Lorraine Walsh, Cathy Robinson (UK) created Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story, a 9-part podcast series looking at how the opaque worlds of football transfers and illegal charter flights collided on 21st January 2019 with fatal consequences. It contains moving testimony from Emiliano's family & friends. Ahead of the move from FC Nantes to Cardiff City, Emiliano was treated like a commodity - even after his death - and the podcast is a wake-up call to reframe how we think about footballers.
The three categories showed stunning works, proving the importance that creating this benchmark of quality has had in the younger generations. Henrique Arcoverde (Brazil) in Broadcasting, Farai Shawn Matiashe (Zimbabwe) in Writing and Will Palmer (UK) in Photography, will soon get a scholarship at a top international event.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING + A LIFE IN SPORT
The special category not open to submissions crowned three winners that showed the tentacles of match-fixing and officials unlawful interference in football. Attila Turkey (Turkey), with The Backyard of football, the work that rocked Turkish football, Daniel Grefve (Sweden) with The Kvarnby case, A club in the 5th tier in the Swedish league system, who wants to break the culture of silence, and wants to show that anyone can be a victim of match fixing (SVT Swedish Television), and Danilo Diaz (Chile) – El penal que se cobró desde Santiago (Tribuna Andes), an investigation that proved how VAR had been influenced by outsiders in a key game for the promotion playoff. After this, referees were suspended and the top officials of the refereeing commission resigned.
A Life in Sport paid homage to Yoon Se Young, sports administrator, founder of SBS, sports broadcaster, whose contribution and legacy to sports has been massive in South Korea. Born in 1933, Yoon Se Young says: “My bones are sports administrator, my face is sport broadcaster, my soul is a sports man”. In his acceptance speech, he added: “What is sport to you? To me, it is a touching drama that touches humanity and brings us together. Without the contributions of all of you here, who convey the essence of sport, the public wouldn’t know the happiness that it brings. Thanks to all of you sports have gone brighter”.