Nearly Deleted Photo Overturns Foul Call, Clinches Gold Medal for Shot Putter


Sports games and medals are often won and lost at the hands of the referees. Be it an offside call that might have turned into a goal or the line judge that just doesn’t want to give those last 6-inches your team needs for the first down, there’s good reason cameras are becoming standard backup for refs who might have missed something.

German shot putter David Storl has a particularly good reason to be thankful for cameras these days, since a photo that was almost deleted managed to overturn an erroneous foul call and win him the gold in the IAAF World Championship Men’s Shot Put Finals last week.

The photo was taken by Reuters photographer Kai Pfaffenbach, who had set up one of his remote cameras on the ground next to the shot put ring to get a more unique view of the action. Little did he know that one of his photos would change the course of the competition.

Storl walked away with the silver at the London Olympics. Thanks to Pfaffenbach's photo, he didn't have to settle this time around.

Storl walked away with the silver at the London Olympics. Thanks to Pfaffenbach’s photo, he didn’t have to settle this time around. Image credit: Men’s Shot Put victory ceremony by David Jones

When Storl’s final attempt (a season’s best) was ruled a foul, a lengthy discussion with the judges ensued. It was at this point that Storl ran over to Pfaffenbach — who was on the verge of deleting the fateful photo because of poor composition — shouting/asking in German if he had photos. He did, and the six frames he captured of Storl proved without a doubt that the attempt was fair.

Once the judges saw the photos, the call was overruled, a measurement taken, and Storl eventually earned the gold as nobody managed to best the attempt.

The fallout for Pfaffenbach has been a whirlwind of gratitude and viral Internet fame, as newspapers the world over run stories with titles such as ‘Reuters Photographer Saves Gold for Germany.’ “It was then that I really realised how grateful [I was]” the photographer told Canon Professional Network. “I did something special while I only tried to do my job as professionally as ever.”

(via DPReview)

Image credits: Photograph by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

  • Tom Waugh

    “Storl eventually earned the gold as nobody managed to best the attempt.” Yep. That’s normally how it works.
    Also, on his blog, Kai makes no mention of nearly deleting the images. He only mentions that he wasn’t happy with them because of an intrusive microphone.

  • Rabi Abonour

    From the CPN article linked to in the post:
    “Kai Pfaffenbach had shot a sequence of images with his Canon EOS-1D X DSLR and an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM zoom lens, but he wasn’t particularly happy with the results. He revealed: “I was actually going to delete the images in question! I didn’t like the composition for this sequence – there was a microphone in the way and other things that I didn’t like compared to my other shots. Just before I was about to hit the delete button on the back of the camera I could see the referees arguing with [David] Storl, saying that he had stepped out of the ring and therefore his attempt was a foul.””

  • Tom Waugh

    Thanks for that Rabi. I got my info from the photographer’s own blog.

  • anon

    Thanks God he used a Canon to make that photo of the microphone.