Naomi Osaka Saving Butterfly Wins World Sports Photography Awards

Barbara Merkley
Japan’s Naomi Osaka removes a butterfly from her dress as she plays against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur during their women’s singles match on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 12, 2021 | David Gray

Sports photographer David Gray has won the top prize at the World Sports Photography Awards for his image of tennis player Naomi Osaka rescuing a butterfly at the 2021 Australian Open.

The winning photo captures the moment play was interrupted by the insect before Osaka gently removed it from the court. But not before it had landed on her face.

“This is a breath-taking image. Sports Photography captures special moments and tells unique stories, but most of all it draws you in and reveals the unexpected. It forces you to look again and reconsider,” the World Sports Photography Awards, Co-Founder, Simon Burton says.

The Czech Republic’s Lukas Rohan at the Rowing Slalom at the 2020 Olympics | Morgan Treacy
Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) grabs the ball over Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory | Kevin Jairaj
Isaac Julián Morillas Sánchez
Richard Pelham
Muhammad Arbaz
The peloton rides through Siena, Italy during stage 12 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia. Photographed with a Nikon Z7ii and a Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S | Ashley & Jered Gruber

Over 7,000 images were submitted to the awards from professional sports photographers around the world. In total, there were 24 winning images across sports categories including American Football, Basketball, Cycling, Gymnastics, and Soccer. The competition is the only global award for sports photography.

Some of the pictures came from the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics held in Tokyo. A stunning black and white image of Alexa Szvitacs serving the ball during the Women’s Doubles table tennis was the winner of the Racquet Sports category.

Szvitacs was an elite table tennis player for Hungary, but in the summer of 2018, she was affected by an illness that resulted in life-threatening complications, and the loss of her left forearm and parts of both feet.

Goring ridden by Charles Bishop during the Play 4 To Win At Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton Racecourse | Mike Egerton
Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing kicks his tyre as he reacts after crashing during the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit | Clive Rose
John Barry
Bryson DeChambeau of team United States plays his shot on the ninth hole during Saturday Afternoon Fourball Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 25, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin | Richard Heathcote
Women’s T63 100-meter Medallists, from left, Monica Graziana Contrafatto, bronze, Ambra Sabatini, gold, and Martina Caironi, silver, all of Italy, celebrate after the race at the Olympic Stadium on day eleven during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo | Sam Barnes
Catalin Preda of Romania dives from the 27 metre platform | Morgan Treacy
Wilson Catoe #42 of the Army Black Knights, Cade Barnard #40 of the Army Black Knights, and Jakobi Buchanan #33 of the Army Black Knights in the locker room before the start of a game against the Navy Midshipmen at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey | Dustin Satloff
lexa Szvitacs of Team Hungary serves the ball during the Women’s Doubles table tennis match at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games | Donald Miralle

Sports is full of emotion and images such as Formula One driver kicking his Red Bull car after it had failed him at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix exemplify this. So do the images from the locker room of the Army Black Knights as they prepare for a football game.

Eloisa Sanchez de Alba
Linn Persson of Sweden at zeroing ahead of Women’s 7,5 km Sprint during the IBU Biathlon World Championships on February 13, 2021 in Pokljuka, Slovenia | Joel Marklund
Guan Chenchen, of China, wins the gold medal as she performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women’s apparatus final at the 2020 Summer Olympics | Ashley Landis
Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony | Mark Edward Harris
Adolis Garcia #53 of the Texas Rangers takes a home run away from Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at T-Mobile Park on May 27, 2021 in Seattle, Washington | Abbie Parr
Ian MacNicol

“As a judge, and as a sponsor of the 2022 ‘World Sports Photography Awards’ I was incredibly impressed by the quality of this year’s entries,” says Sophie Collins, Chief Marketing Officer at MPB who sponsored the awards.

“Photography captures a moment in time, the emotion, the ups and downs. It tells a story that has the power to change how the viewer feels and inspires them. It was great to see some new faces in the ‘Pro’ space being shortlisted for the awards too, the bar has definitely been raised for next year.”

You can visit the the awards’ website here.

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