Working for All the Weightlifters

(ATR) A group of photographers is covering the World Weightlifting Championships like never before.

(ATR) The 2017 World Weightlifting Championships are being covered like never before, thanks to a group of photographers who are ensuring that every competitor is recognized.

Ryan Paiva, whose wife finished 10th at 63kg at these championships, helped launch the effort which is called LiftingLife."We make a stated effort to treat each athlete equally in quantity and quality of coverage," he tells Around the Rings.

Previously, Paiva says 90 percent of the coverage would be spent on the top one percent of athletes, which he says is still true for most other media in weightlifting. But he believes covering every single athlete gives not only the individual athlete the recognition but can help grow the sport.

"The number 20 placed athlete could be the first from a country, or have gone through a great and difficult journey to get here," Paiva said. We think this represents the largest area of potential growth. Adding another camera to the #1 athlete does a little, putting the first camera on a pioneer athlete in a struggling country could change the world."

The birth of the effort came in 2014, when Paiva’s wife Mahassen Hala Fattouh became the first woman to represent Lebanon when she competed in the senior world championship. Paiva says they wanted to get her story to the newspapers back home but found that there were no pictures of her from the event, a fact that Paiva calls "heartbreaking".

Two weeks later, they received a couple of photos from a weightlifter who had taken them in the stands during the competition. Thus was born the idea that the problem could be solved from within.

"We immediately started to cover things behind the scenes – the coaches, the volunteers, the staff – the things that really make up our sport in addition to the lifting itself," Paiva says.

"In 2015, our goal initially was to make sure everyone could get photos affordably. So we partnered with some photographers who were actually not weightlifters at the time and just made sure the event was covered. Some people bought the photos but we had a lot of emails from people who said they couldn’t afford them."

For 2017, the photos are being given to every athlete, thanks to an agreement with Eleiko, the main sponsor for the ongoing world championships being held in Anaheim, California. The Swedish company is helping pay the cost for logistics and housing while the photographers who have signed on are taking a massive pay cut to work the event.

"Yeah, I think they’re making below minimum wage, putting in almost two weeks of work, lots of preparation time," Paiva says. "They’re up until the early hours of the morning editing because they’re spending all day taking pictures. They rented a lot of equipment on their own. It’s definitely a labor of love."

Photographers Viviana Podhaiski, Joseph McCray and Linda Brothers have joined Paiva for this event. Some of their photos are being shared on the Weightlifting Championships website, augmenting that coverage.

"There’s already been a lot of great response from people who are really excited to have the photos."

What sets these photographs apart is the access that the group gets at the event. The International Weightlifting Federation is allowing them back in the warm up areas during the competitions.

"It’s also important that it’s not just people on a platform lifting heavy things, that there are people crying in the back, there are people hugging, there are people who worked for 30 years, 40 years , 50 years to get that one medal and they finally got it," Paiva tells ATR.

"Danny Camargo has been coaching for it has to be 20 years now and many of those years with no pay, volunteering on his own, and his athlete Mattie Rogers picks up three bronze medals. Twenty years in the making. It’s important for me for him to have photos. I think if you’re not in the sport you don’t appreciate how important it is."

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Written and reported by Gerard Farekin Anaheim, California

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