Tom Jenkins’ best sports photos of 2016

The Guardian and Observer sport photographer Tom Jenkins selects his favourite images from 2016 and recalls how each one was created

Andy Murray wins Wimbledon again 10 July
135mm lens 1/1600 f4 ISO 1000

Championship-winning point at Wimbledon is always a bit nervy for me even though I have done many of them over the years. There are some pretty big decisions to be made what lens do you go on as you dont know where on the court they will celebrate? Do you go upright or landscape? Are they jumpers or fallers when they win? Whats the light doing? You just know whatever choices you make have to be right. Of course you can never legislate for a player turning away from his family and pointing in the wrong direction from the majority of photographers like Andy Murray did in 2013. Luckily he didnt repeat that this year.

Young Arlo Schlupp and the Premier League trophy 7 May
165mm lens 1/1250 f4 ISO 1600


The day Leicester lifted the Premier League trophy was quite remarkable. Not only was it fantastic outside, where the whole city seemed to have congregated for a massive party, but also inside the stadium especially after the game. The actual trophy lift itself was blighted for the vast majority of photographers because we could hardly see it due to the abundance of TV cameras smack in front of the presentation. But there were some lovely images of players and management cavorting with the cup afterwards, hardly believing what had occurred. Probably this image was my favourite of the day. Jeffrey Schlupps son looking bemused and nonplussed by the whole thing as he holds on to the trophy. One day in the future Im sure he will understand what all the fuss was about.

Englands Jonny May is caught by South Africas Pat Lambie 12 November
400mm lens 1/1600 f3.5 ISO 3200


As England rugby unions triumphant year rumbled on through the autumn, the flying Gloucester wing was back scoring tries for his country. Here he just fails to escape the clutches of the Springboks fly-half Lambie. This image is helped by the facial expressions and the low angle emphasising how far May is off the ground.

The Australian womens team pursuit competing in the Rio Olympic velodrome 13 August
16mm lens 1/8 f9 ISO 100


I was in the velodrome one afternoon during the Olympics shooting the womens team pursuit qualification when I decided to have a bit of a play. It was something I had tried but not quite nailed at the world championships in London in March. Instead of panning horizontally I rotated anti-clockwise with a very slow shutter speed in order to create circular light trails. It was just a case of repeating and repeating until I achieved a rider sharp enough in the centre of this spinning effect.

Boxer George Groves by Barnes railway bridge 22 January
44mm lens 1/400 f2.8 ISO 100


We had an interview with Groves who was about to take the latest step in rebuilding his career after three unsuccessful attempts at world titles. He is based in Hammersmith so I asked if he could meet me not far away down by the River Thames. It was a foul day but good to his word he turned up and stood in the pouring rain. I use a lighting system which has a high-speed sync capability thus enabling me to shoot a combination of wide aperture and high shutter speed.

Mixed synchronised swimming at the European Aquatics Championships 11 May
400mm lens 1/2500 f3.2 ISO 3200


It was the first time that this event had been held at a European championships so I was quite looking forward to seeing something a bit different at the London Aquatics Centre. The Russians are the masters of this sport so it was no surprise to see them lead the way. It produced decent pictures as the man was able to throw the woman all over the place, spray flying off in all directions. But often you couldnt clearly see that it was a mixed couple competing which was the whole point of the picture. So my favourite from that day was this shooting at a very low level with a long lens I was able to get a nice reflection of both competitors.

Winston Reid scores the winner for West Ham v Manchester United in the last game to be played at the famous Boleyn Ground 10 May
24mm lens 1/100 f8 ISO 2500


From my position during the game, low down and by the dug-outs, I knew I wouldnt have a good angle to achieve an image of the ground that could be seen as an historic reminder of the final game. So I managed to get permission to clamp a remote camera high up on the scaffolding supporting the TV studio. Here I could see it all the ground, the pitch, the players, the lights, the fans. Obviously it was a huge stroke of luck for me that the final goal was scored at the right end but if you dont try you never get.

An NFL black power salute at Twickenham 23 October
200mm lens 1/4000 f4 ISO 1000


As the American national anthem is played, Robert Quinn, a defensive end for the LA Rams, holds his right fist in the air in a black power salute. The American football season had started in controversy with a wave of protests by players angry about perceived wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States. Twickenham was holding its first NFL match and the first non-rugby sports event in the stadiums history.

Le Mans 24-hour race 18 June
560mm lens (400mm + 1.4 converter) 1/5000 f5.6 ISO 200


This was an event I had wanted to do for ages and finally this year I got the chance mainly because I was doing an exclusive picture essay with Sir Chris Hoy who was competing there for the first time. I was taken aback by the enormity of the circuit and crowds. It was huge and finding out the best angles for various times of day would take me hours and hours of trudging around. I obviously didnt have this time as for most of the race I needed to be stationed near the pits where Hoy was based. I did however manage to find a decent spot near the finishing straight for the sunset on Saturday and luck played its part as a car span into the gravel and dust particles thrown into the air softened the evening light.

Richard Johnson poses for a portrait after racing at Taunton 13 January
50mm lens 1/4000 f1.6 ISO 200


On 16 occasions Johnson had finished runner-up to AP McCoy in the race for the champion jump jockey title. This picture was taken just after he had achieved his 3,000th winner and he knew then in mid-January he was well on his way to claiming the top jockeys prize. It was a beautiful winters day in Somerset but despite having plenty of light to play with I decided to have a wide-open aperture to give me a small depth of field and blur the background nicely.

Great Britain v China mens team foil fencing 12 August
120mm lens 1/2000 f4.5 ISO 3200


The fencing tournament at the Olympics is always one of my favourite events to cover. It is theatrically and dramatically lit which means photographers can have a lot of fun experimenting with exposures and shutter-speeds. Also its not one of the high-profile events where the pressure is on not to miss a vital moment. After a bit of evaluation time I managed to work out how I could combine two frames in a multiple exposure. The colours of the different pistes certainly add to the impact of this image while it was just a matter of time and practice before getting the fencers in the right place.

MMA fighting in Colchester 20 February
200mm lens 1/800 f2.8 ISO 4000


I was at Colchesters Charter Hall to cover a grassroots MMA evening as part of a multimedia project about the growth of the sport and its top level of UFC. It was my first night shooting the sport and some of it I found quite shocking, especially the move called ground and pound which seemed to involve pinning your opponent on his back and smashing him in the face. This is illustrated here as Brian Bouland, a welterweight from Belgium, completely overwhelms the bloodied and beaten Jamie Pritchard, a featherweight from Cornwall. Working that night was really challenging as the light was dreadful and shooting at ground level through the wire-work of the cage made focussing very tricky.

Messi, Neymar and Surez celebrate a goal against Arsenal at the Emirates 23 February
560mm lens (400m + 1.4 converter) 1/1250 f4 ISO 4000


Barcelonas awesome attacking three amigos or MSN had just combined beautifully to rip apart Arsenal and score a vital away goal in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match. In front of the Bara fans it seemed quite serene and peaceful as they fitted together like a perfect puzzle.

England beating France in Paris and winning the grand slam 19 March
560mm lens (400mm + 1.4 converter) 1/1600 f4 ISO 4000


As the referee blows the final whistle on their Six Nations campaign George Kruis, centre, bellows in celebration while some of the England backs dance around in the background. The last play of the game was in the centre circle so I made sure I had a converter on to bring me closer to the final scene.

Andy Murray poses for a portrait at Queens Club 26 February
70mm lens 1/200 f2.8 ISO 800

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