2021 Sports in Review

The visual sports stories we loved in 2021
(Los Angeles Times Photography Staff)
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Mighty Mo - Francine Orr

Maurine Kornfeld celebrated her 100th birthday with a swim.

Kornfeld is not only a powerhouse of an athlete at age 100 but a powerhouse of a human being. She’s known at the pool as “Mighty Mo” or just “Mo.”

Her Pasadena Rose Bowl Masters swim mates say she sings as she does the back stroke, which Mighty Mo says she enjoys because she can look at the sky as she glides through the silky water in the early morning.

She hasn’t allowed the global pandemic to slow her down, continuing to swim regularly outdoors in three local pools, but the Rose Bowl Masters swim team claims her as their own.

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As an athlete, Mo is a world record holder. She’s also modest, witty and knowledgeable on current events. She doesn’t like to focus attention on her impressive swim records. As a retired social worker, she’d much rather listen to how your day is going.

Her presence on desk or in the pool will inspire you to keep swimming.

Surfing goats - Allen J. Schaben

Dana McGregor, left front, owner of the Surfing Goats of Pismo Beach, and others surf with a goat named Pismo the Kid
Dana McGregor, left front, owner of the Surfing Goats of Pismo Beach, and others surf with a goat named Pismo the Kid back in February at the San Clemente Pier.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Growing up raising a couple of goats on a small, landlocked farm in Nebraska, I love to photograph the ocean and those who revel in its beauty. Over the years, I’ve captured surfing dogs, surfers in Halloween costumes, naked surfers, tandem surfers, surfing dolphins and the G.O.A.T. himself, Kelly Slater, at his surf ranch. So, when I heard about a surfing goat named Goatee, I was on board.

I quickly got on the horn to my editors, who didn’t butt heads with me. They told me to hoof it down to San Clemente.

Cranking up the Billy Ocean tunes, I arrived just in time to catch this California kid and his herd nabbing some tasty waves, not eating it. Some beachgoers said ewe when they saw the horned surf-fur hanging four and not 10 — but were corrected by the stubborn buck.

This kid’s got a future. Next stop: America’s Goat Talent.

Triple crown - Gina Ferazzi

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I had been following the hikers every month since meeting them for the first time on the Pacific Crest Trail near the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino in March. I captured them on the Appalachian Trail in Maine, the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado and many rural towns on the PCT in Oregon, Northern and Southern California.

On this day in May, I was planning on meeting them at sunset at this spot on the Appalachian Trail. They accidentally sent me the wrong GPS coordinates, so I soon found myself on a remote logging road, where I encountered two very large moose. I then lost my cell signal. Eventually, I managed to finally get back to a main road. My cellphone rang. It was Sammy. “We’re very sorry, we sent you the wrong coordinates,” he said.

After another 45 minutes of driving on rural logging roads (thank goodness I had rented a four-wheel-drive SUV) in the dark, I saw a reflector on a tree trunk and turned down another dirt road. I finally found them.

The second photo is of Sammy and Jackson atop an iconic, hand-painted rock in Baxter State Park. This was taken the morning before they climbed Mt. Katahdin in wintry conditions. Jackson’s mom had met them at the trailhead and wanted a photo of them at the rock. They decided to climb the rock.

Black Rodeo - Jason Armond

Walking into the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo in Las Vegas, I kept telling myself, “Don’t get kicked or trampled by a horse and don’t get gored by a bull.”

As I carefully navigated around the arena, I could see that despite this being a competition, all the entrants genuinely cared for and supported one another.

Cowboys and cowgirls sat atop their horses in the wings of the arena watching and cheering on fellow competitors.

Groups of cowboys who had already competed would help fellow cowboys settle into the bucking chutes for their bull rides.

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In my images I really wanted to convey the sense of community that the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has cultivated over its 37 years as America’s longest-running all-Black rodeo.

I was pleased that my images not only highlighted the action but also captured the strong bond between the cowboys and cowgirls.

Proud Paralympian - Myung Chun

Jamal Hill is neck deep in a pool, with his hands held together in front of his mouth
Paralympian Jamal Hill stares into the camera on Dec. 4 in Pasadena. He won a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The idea for the portrait came about with a discussion with Times sports picture editor Kelvin Kuo.

A waterproof housing was rented for the above/under water picture. During a short pause as I was reviewing the images, Jamal Hill brought his hands up to his face, and I told him to hold that pose as I quickly grabbed a few frames.

A challenge with this picture was dealing with the refraction as everything under the water was greatly magnified, giving improper proportions.

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Surf City - El Salvador - Wally Skalij

As a child who visited the beach every day during the summer with the same group of friends, I sometimes daydreamed about traveling the world to the famous surf spots. I gave up on the dream while pursuing my career, even though sitting on my surfboard waiting for the perfect set to roll in always remained in my memory.

Many years later I got the call to cover the International Surf Assn. World Surfing Games in El Salvador — considered one of the best surfing spots in the Pacific Ocean. My childhood dream would come true. Top surfers from around the world would converge to La Bocana, a small town with the best pupusas anywhere.

For the next eight days we were treated with a huge swell, great surfing but some of the worst humidity ever experienced. I had problems with my lenses fogging once they were brought from the outdoor humidity to inside the hotel room with the cool air conditioning but managed to work around it.