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Marc Aspland FRPS records Olympic athlete Lewis Smith's triple Russian
- Published 24th January 2012
Marc Aspland FRPS works for The Times newspaper as its Chief Sports Photographer. He writes here about a stunning photograph of Olympic hopeful Lewis Smith...
Introducing Lewis Smith, performing exclusively for The Times a 'triple Russian' on the pommel horse. This is pure theatre, pure drama at the highest level of sport: it is, 'Who dares wins', or as Lewis himself calls it, 'shit or bust'.
Smith will perform the most difficult routine in the world to secure maximum points during his pommel horse routine at London 2012. One slip, one slight of hand and it will be all over, but as his GB Olympic team mate Daniel Keatings says, 'if anyone can pull it off, it is Lewis'.
I was incredibly lucky to spend time with Lewis and his coach Paul Hall at their training center in Huntingdon. An old draughty shed of a building behind a housing estate is an unlikely setting for a seat of excellence. Every surface is covered with a layer of fine talcum powder dust from the chalk used for grip. Hip Hop or dance music booms across the expanse as the athletes fine tune their precise moves.
Being in the company of Paul Hall is a pleasure. He comes from a school of coaching with no shouting, no dramas, just an icy stare and the knowledge that he has spotted something so minute that its significance can mean gold or silver.
And Lewis arrives, late, full of a heavy cold, hoodie up, wearing earphones as big as plates, with high-fives to everyone in the room. An engaging smile and a hug for a photographer he has met only a few times previously. A very quick warm-up routine and before I have even taken a metre reading for the light, he is up and spinning around the pommel horse like the cartoon character, the 'Tasmanian Devil'.
"Are you ready" he asks me sarcastically,
"Are you?" I reply!
Paul Hall stands close behind me to ensure that what I am photographing will be an accurate record of the super-complex move Lewis is about to attempt. I have the feeling I am witnessing something unique and in the twirling world of the pommel horse, it most certainly is.
The Triple Russian involves Lewis rotating around the handle of the pommel horse three times. I would be lucky if I could leap-frog the pommel horse. Because Lewis is announcing that he to attempt this move in London 2012 in The Times he is hoping his competitors will not have enough time to perfect it and thus he will spin his way to gold. He has a long way to go.
The move is still in its early days of practice and move after move resulted in Lewis being thrown from the horse. Yet he jumped back on for the benefit of the photographer when his arms were burning in pain. By using a technique of layering the rotations of Lewis' actions, we have been able to show in one frame the Triple Russian in all its complex glory.
I asked Paul if I could stay behind after the photo-shoot was complete, such was my fascination in the training and moves our GB Olympic gymnasts were perfecting. Like Daniel, I am now a believer that when it comes to the Triple Russian in London later this year, if anyone can do it, Lewis will do it.
Marc Aspland FRPS