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How an AP photographer captured this gravity-defying move at the US figure skating championships

Madison Chock and Evan Bates compete in championship ice dance at the U.S. figure skating championships Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Madison Chock and Evan Bates compete in championship ice dance at the U.S. figure skating championships Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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AP Photographer Sue Ogrocki went against her usual photographic instincts when shooting action-packed sporting events and looked for the artistic moments during the pairs competition recently at the US figure skating championships.

Here’s how she made this extraordinary image.

WHY THIS PHOTO?

Shooting sports, I tend to look for peak action – the big play or moment - and there’s certainly no peak action here. But figure skating, like gymnastics or synchronized swimming, is different. It has many moments that are artistic in nature - performance art instead of peak action. This is a photo that shows the strength and artistry of the skaters. I doubt many people could hold that pose on the ground, certainly not on ice. So, I shot it even though it wasn’t peak action, wasn’t the male skater tossing the female skater through the air or a triple axel, but it was nonetheless an important element of the figure skating championships. There are peak action photos of the couple but this shows how important it is to get a mix of different moments to produce a complete photo report.

HOW I MADE THIS PHOTO

With advertisements on the ice and the boards, and distracting fans in the background if shooting from ice level, I decided to shoot from above. It made for much cleaner backgrounds. Sometimes the skaters lined up with the part of the ice printed with “US Figure Skating Championships,” sometimes better than other times. It is partially visible in this photo. Over four days, I’m not sure how many photos I shot, but between myself, two remote editors and the New York photo desk editors, over 450 photos were transmitted.

WHY THE PHOTO WORKS

This photo works precisely because it is the antithesis of what people normally think of when they think of a sports photo – peak action. The championships ran for four days, and I was lucky enough to have an excellent remote editor on this day, Ashley Landis, and I must give her credit for the final edit and choosing and transmitting this photo. I’m glad this one makes an impression.

For their effort, Madison Chock and Evan Bates won the gold medal for ice dance.