The AIPS awards show that sports journalism has moved beyond just results and actions. It’s about changing lives

Beyond the noise of a sporting competition – whether it’s a FIFA World Cup qualifier, an Olympic 100m sprint or a junior basketball match on a suburbs – lurks a complex web of stories that has given rise to the growing genre of sports journalism, quite distinct from sports reporting.

Those who choose to specialize in it use the prism of sport to explain the complexities of the world we live in with its geopolitical, cultural and social divides.

This week in Doha, as the Socceroos wrote the next chapter in their own individual and collective history, a group of sports journalists from all continents gathered in the same city to have their work recognized at the FIFA Awards Gala. International Sports Press Association (AIPS).

Photographic portfolios, investigations, color pieces and broadcast documentaries have revealed an incredible depth of storytelling excellence that often goes unnoticed.

A man stands in a cave.
Shepherd Zhu Keming stands in a cave, where he saved the lives of six runners in the disastrous ultramarathon that left 21 people dead.(Getty Images: Gao Zhan/China News Service)

Thus began the gold medal for “best piece of color” by Wufei Yu (China) and Will Ford (USA) published in Runner’s World.

It’s a haunting tale of those who survived the tragedy of China’s Yellow River Stone Forest Ultramarathon in 2021.

The experience counted for nothing as a freak cold snap left riders stranded between checkpoints, unable to move forward, too cold to back up. Of the leading group of six, only one survived.

The story asks how it all went so wrong, addressing the survivors, some of whom are still grappling with what they went through. It’s not just reporting a sporting event, it’s journalism at its finest.

“I think sports journalism is often associated only with celebrity and entertainment culture,” Ford told The Ticket.

“But there’s so much more humanity that you can bring out through his lens – especially in the social, political and anthropological sense.”

In the far west of Ghana, on the banks of the Pra River, lies a small town described by journalist Francis Hena as “inspirational footnotes rather than headlines”.

He won the Best Broadcaster Young Reporters category with his story of hope emerging from what many might call a village of despair.

Young boys, children of subsistence farmers and fishermen, dream of an alternate universe where they are great footballers playing on a global stage: they play for the Pra Babies Football Club where a young coach struggles to teach the boys , to nurture and equip them to instill in them a sense of pride in who they are and where life might take them.

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“It’s very difficult,” coach Roland Fiifi Ackon told Hema. “You don’t get anyone’s support.”

Hema focused on Pra Babies but there are teams like that all over Ghana, that’s where the journey began for many of the hundreds of Ghanaians who now play in every major league in the world.

“Young footballers in Ghana and Africa are struggling a lot,” Hema said.

“I hope my story on Pra Babies will change the narrative and that key stakeholders will give grassroots footballers the attention they need to help them reach their full potential.

“What motivates me as a sports journalist is seeing my stories impact the lives of people around me and society at large.”

French journalist Matthieu Darnon won the video documentary award for his expose of the 28 seconds in the life of former F1 driver Romain Grosjean where he was literally on fire.

Marshals use a hose to try to put out a fiercely burning fire in an F1 car in Bahrain.
Romain Grosjean survived this horrific accident during the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020.(AFP/DPPI)

The driver hit a metal barrier during the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, splitting his car in two as it exploded into a ball of fire.

His wife was watching live on TV thinking she was widowed. His best friend was commentating on the race trying to maintain control and consistency as his mind raced out of control, flooding with emotion as the devastating scene unfolded before him.

Grosjean himself said he will never be the same again, like his car back then, his life is now in two parts – before and after November 29, 2020.

Darnon, the documentary filmmaker, said the journalists who do what he does are in a privileged position.

“As sports journalists, we have the great fortune to follow people who test human limits, mentally or physically, which brings them to situations that normal people could not even imagine,” he said. .

“In fact, it’s quite rare to see your husband almost perish in the flames live on TV.

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