“Do you know if these skis belong to any of your athletes?” he asked. Well, trad. skis, 201cm and of the brand One Way… even I did know that they most probably were Sami’s.
So the next day when we went up to Laura to do a story on waxing we called Sami and handed him the skis. He had been skiing right behind the press center and came to meet us. He sat down for a while on the stairs and we had a nice talk.
Kind of cool feeling, you know: quiet, no people around you, no hassle, lots of pauses, just enjoying the beautiful day. Man, you just won the gold medal… and here you are, next morning, skiing couple of laps just for fun…
It was really nice. And strange – but in a nice way.
(click images to enlarge them)
I later followed him to the service area and took the image on the right, which I really do like. I know, it’s nothing special but that’s the point: the total simplicity, on a natural podium, with a perfect light…
I then asked Musti about one detail I had noticed the day before. I had seen him hug very affectionally this guy who takes care of his skis. I asked him if there was anything behind this. He told me that Ari Marjetta was his personal service person and that they had known each other for almost thirty years.
And that when he had been four years old, Musti had said to his mother that should his father for some reason die he would insist that Ari would be his new stepdad.
Can you imagine a bigger compliment a small child could give?
And now that Musti’s father passed away last year, given this history I think yesterday was even more a meaningful encounter for both of them after the race.
I bumbed into Ari couple of minutes later and he told me the same story. And he added that he had left the national team after the Salt Lake City games – due to “shit” – as he put it – which was poured over him, but that two years ago Musti had asked him if he would be willing to assist for this.
He had thought about it for three weeks but eventually said yes.
I met him as he was getting ready to leave to the medal ceremony. Four, five hour trip at least down to Adler and back to the mountain. But as he said – and if I may say – with a fatherlike pride in his voice: “This only happens once in a lifetime and I want to see it”.
I hung out for a while on the training area hoping to get couple of good shots also of Iivo Niskanen, Sami’s pair in the sprint. I was told he had already left, but after half an hour of waiting he suddenly showed up.
I had heard that earlier in the morning he had been skiing with his sister Kerttu (who got silver in the same race) and that they had been taking family pictures by the rings. So I asked him if he would mind I’d take couple of shots over there myself.
“Sure, no worries” he said. We’d never met, but he was the nicest guy from the minute one. Truly appreciated his attitude. So I jogged the c. 400m uphill with the camera bag on my back – he was skiing – to the rings.
How often do you get to run alongside a olympic winner? And even though I am in pretty good shape I do have to admit that I was pretty much breathless when we got there.
But then again: he just won olympic gold in skiing, he is not even half my age, so maybe I should not be worried about it.
He did everything I asked him to do and was the nicest guy to work with. I shot the whole thing with 8-15/4 super wide which I “defished” in the Lightroom – i.e. got rid of all the distortion which comes with a fish eye lens.
Here’s two versions of the images we shot.