Getty Images

The photographer who captured Miracle on Ice, Dream Team, raised-fist salute, Munich

Leave a comment

The Miracle on Ice. Larry, Magic and Michael. The raised-fist salute. The Munich hostage crisis.

Photographer Neil Leifer documented all of those Olympic moments and more, though the 73-year-old is best-known for his shots of Muhammad Ali.

Leifer, who is putting hundreds of photos from his personal collection up for auction this weekend, reflected on some of his most memorable Olympic images:

1984: Leifer with Cuban president Fidel Castro and boxer Teófilo Stevenson. (IMAGE HERE)

Leifer: In 1984 the Olympics were in Los Angeles. Time Magazine rolled the dice on a very expensive photo shoot, traveling around the world and shooting athletes like picture postcards (Carl Lewis in front of the Statue of Liberty, a Soviet weightlifter in front of Red Square, an Egyptian discus thrower in front of the Sphinx, the Indian field hockey team in front of the Taj Mahal, etc.).

No other people were in the pictures. Except this one for Stevenson.

I went to the Cubans and said that Fidel Castro was in fact the picture postcard of Cuba. He would be the only person other than the talent that would be in any of these pictures. They went back and forth with Time, and the Cubans eventually came and said that President Castro agreed to do the shoot.

When I got to Havana, maybe it was just for political reasons because it was President Castro, they brought half the Olympic team to the stadium when I was shooting. They didn’t want to offend the basketball team, the volleyball team. They brought in most of their best athletes.

So I photographed most of the group with Castro, but what I really was there to shoot was Stevenson. The highlight was, at the end of the session, I asked Castro for my picture with him, which I do with all my subjects, and he said yes. I have a few hundred pictures of me with various subjects, but this is the best one without question.

The Cubans later would boycott the 1984 Olympics, so the photo never ran.

1992: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan (IMAGE HERE)

Leifer: For a Dream Team preview package for Newsweek. I had 20 minutes with the three of them for a pretty simple cover shoot. It was in San Diego. Michael Jordan had a tee time, so he told me when we came in that we have 20 minutes. He was absolutely wonderful for 20 minutes and, bingo, he was out the door at 21 minutes.

1992: Unified Team wrestler Aleksandr Karelin with a cooked turkey (IMAGE HERE)

Leifer: I was assigned to do something for the official program for the Barcelona Olympics. My recollection was I shot that in Pittsburgh, at a Russian family’s home.

1972: Munich Hostage Crisis (IMAGE HERE)

Leifer: I got woken up by a phone call from my assistant, whose husband was one of the producers for ABC for the Games. Something’s going on at the Olympic Village, and they thought we should get there.

Quite frankly, it sounded like nothing to me. I said, you know, I just can’t imagine it’s going to turn into anything serious. We’re working too hard, and I wasn’t there to photograph a break-in at the village. I never imagined it would become the story. Who would have imagined what happened.

I didn’t get out to the Olympic Village until all the press arrived. The village was closed, and I shot from outside. I shot pictures of the German police, who at one point were dressed in athletes’ warm-up clothes, so they looked like athletes, but they were carrying submachine guns.

I’m Jewish, and my mother lost her family in the Holocaust, so this was not a very good time. It ruined what had up to then been a wonderful Olympics. After that I just wanted to get the damn thing over with.

1980: Miracle on Ice (IMAGE HERE)

Leifer: I remember it wasn’t the final game. Maybe I’m too old about it, but I’ve never understood the big deal [with the Miracle on Ice]. Because, quite frankly, I remember a much more amateurish team beating the Russians in 1960. The Finnish team America had to beat in the [1980] final was no slouch, either. You can get very nationalistic, I was sure as hell rooting for America, and for me it was a great game and a wonderful moment in sport.

But I think what Eric Heiden did in Lake Placid, winning five gold medals, was much more impressive. I thought Eric Heiden was the story of the Games, Which is taking nothing away from what [the hockey team] did.

1976: Soviet weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev (IMAGE HERE)

Leifer: He was a wonderful character. There are people who like the camera, and he was one of them. You couldn’t take a bad picture of Alekseyev. I photographed him at home in Russia for Sports Illustrated for another piece in addition to the Games. He had a personality and an ego like Muhammad Ali.

MORE: Modern Olympics proposal letter from 1894 up for auction

2020 Tour de France standings

1 Comment

2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

Leave a comment

A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!