Wally Skalij: Top shots from Tokyo Olympics

Competitors from the 4x400 relay look at the video board in anticipation of possibly winning a medal.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Heading into my eighth Olympics I knew things would be different. With the heat, never-ending bus rides between venues and the daily testing, our coverage was limited. Because of social distancing, photo positions were lacking, and on some occasions, we had to get there three hours in advance to get the best spot. Did I mention the heat?

In the photo of Simone Biles being consoled, the body language tells the story of the moment she dropped out of competition.

Simone Biles is consoled after withdrawing from team competition at the Tokyo Olympics
Simone Biles after competing on the vault and withdrawing from competition in the women’s team final.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Simone Biles on the uneven bars, shot with a telephoto lens. The details in her feet and hands outlined by chalk show the rigors of being a gymnast, and at the same time the gracefulness of the sport.


Simone Biles competes on the uneven bars at the Tokyo Olympics.
The U.S.’ Simone Biles competes on the uneven bars in the women’s team qualifying.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It helps being ready for the unpredictable, and this high jumper doing a backflip with the sunglasses flying off after winning the gold medal is an example.

Mutaz Barshim does a back flip at the Tokyo Olympics
Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim does a back flip and loses his sunglasses.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Panning horizontally is a common technique, so I tried to do it in a vertical manner. I only succeeded once out of over 100 frames where the face is sharp.

Augusto Dutra of Brazil pole vaults at the Tokyo Olympics.
Brazil’s Augusto Dutra clears the bar in the men’s pole vault qualifying.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

I have always been curious about how athletes prepare before competition, and look for the moments of solitude and light.


A diver from China at the Tokyo Olympics
A member of China’s men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard prepares for the final.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Keeping an eye out for aesthetics is a goal when everything else seems cliché, such as using circles and squares with a bowing athlete in judo.

Bekmurod Oltiboev bows after a judo match at the Tokyo Olympics.
Uzbekistan’s Bekmurod Oltiboev bows after a match in the men’s 100-kilogram judo match.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The typical photo for shot put is to get the actual throw with chalk flying off the hand. Trying a different angle, I was able to get the shot putter within the lines and the divots in the grass.

Olha Golodna throws the shot put at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ukraine’s Olha Golodna competes in the women’s shot put qualifying.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Olympic Stadium in Tokyo has a beautiful oval shape and I wanted to emphasize that, and included a javelin competitor on a really hot day.

A javelin thrower stands in the shade at the Tokyo Olympics.
An athlete stands in the shade before the start of the men’s javelin throw.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It had just rained a few hours before, and as the track was drying in some areas it created a pattern. I placed the runner at the corner of the frame to emphasize the color and pattern.

Stephen Kissa runs the track at the Tokyo Olympics.
With a wet track, Uganda’s Stephen Kissa leads the pack early in the men’s 10,000-meter final.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Always tough to battle television when they rush the court but got lucky with a sliver of an opening to capture the peak emotion of the U.S. men’s basketball team winning gold.


U.S. basketball players hold a flag and hug at the Tokyo Olympics
Members of the U.S. basketball team celebrate the gold medal after defeating France.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)