MARTIN MAZUR / AIPS, Budapest: It’s 7 pm and the ballroom at Hotel Corinthia is filled with expectation. Inside, the AIPS Sport Media Awards are celebrating the best sports journalists and storytellers from around the world.
It’s not just the conclusion of one year of hard work; it is also the beginning of a new chapter for the 27 finalists, all winners after going through four different voting stages from the original 1754 submissions received from 125 different countries.
A couple of hours earlier, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was on stage for a one-hour panel with AIPS president Gianni Merlo, sending his best regards to the awardees and asking them for a group photo. “I’m a big fan of journalists,” Infantino joked.
As host Jonathan Edwards reads two powerful quotes, the night starts with a very special tribute, to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven more people sports-related that died in the helicopter accident.
“We are here to celebrate the second edition, I’m very proud of the number of submissions that we have received, and this shows that we believe in the culture of sport and what it means. I can tell you that in the last meeting of the Jury, it was not so easy, many of these categories have finished with a photo-finish,” said Merlo stated in the opening speech.
Suzanne Wrack (UK), winner for the Best Colour Piece for his story “There was blood everywhere”, about sex abuse in the Afghan Football Association, said: “I’d like to dedicate this Award to the five victims that talk to me putting themselves on a personal risk, and also to The Guardian that published it when it’s very hard to prove cases like that”.
“I’d like to congratulate all the production teams, it’s an honour to be acknowledged among so much quality. Toby Dawson and his family opened up their lives to us, so on behalf of our teams, we want to thank them,” said Marissa Boyajian on behalf of Matthew Allen (USA), who won the Video Athlete Profile category with his work for NBC.
“I’d like to thank AIPS and my fellow finalists, and I’m here on behalf of a team, the Spotlight team,” said Andrew Ryan (US), winner of the audio category for the story “Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football inc”, submitted by Bob Hohler, and produced, written and broadcast by the Spotlight team of The Boston Globe in a six-episode broadcast.
“I’m pleased to be here, and thanks for this,” said an emotional Roman Vondrouš (Czech Republic), whose horse racing portfolio won one of the Photography categories.
“I know dozens of South American and Brazilian journalists fighting against the far right government. A very difficult time in Brazil, too. We are under attack. Many of our colleagues have the voices in silence at the moments. History will not be kind to us if we don’t fight back. I know many of us share a common view, which is actually very simple: we will not run out of ink. We will not run out of ink”, stated Brazilian writer Jamil Chade, who was awarded with the special Investigative Reporting award.
“My colleague Phil Smith deserves equal amount of recognition. I’d like to thank the BBC, but mostly the athletes and their families, for them, because they opened up and told their stories, thank you!”, said Stuart Pollitt (UK), whose work The Kennedy that changed the world, about Special Olympics, was awarded as Best Documentary winner.
“I’m stunned”, said Prajwal Oli (Nepal), for his article in The Kathmandu Post, chosen as Best Column.
“Sport is culture and sport is education, we must not limit ourselves to see sport as entertainment of the masses, these Awards are a chance to show values”, was the message sent by Carlos Matallanas (Spain) on a very emotional video. Matallanas, a former semi-pro footballer that is suffering ALS, came second tied with Sebastián Torok (Argentina), with his investigation of match-fixing in tennis published in Diario La Nación.
As winner the Athlete Profile category for his video about Brian Estrada, Andrew Leibman (USA) said: “As a storyteller, we should never wait for proposals to chase stories; we should always go out there and with whatever resources we have, even recording with your phone, tell a story”.
Each of the winners earned a trophy and a 8,000 dollar prize; second prized earned 3,000 dollars, and third-prized, 2,000.
Later on, winners of the three newly created Young Reporters categories were unveiled. Hamza Ait Messaoud (Morocco) quoted John F. Kennedy in his speech: “I am a proud Moroccan, I am a proud African, I am a proud citizen of the world”.
The last award, a special category, A Life in Sport, was for Spaniard José María Lorente, 93 years old, who wrote the AIPS book and started his career in the London Olympics. “After 70 years, today my career closes. I appreciate this homage from my soul, from my heart, with my life”, said Lorente.
All the winners, category by category
PHOTOGRAPHY SPORT ACTION
1) Juan Arboleda (Colombia), You set the limits – AFP
2) Zhuang Wu (China), Chinese boxer Xu Can – Xinhua
3) Ganbat Chuluunbaatar (Mongolia), Before a catch! – Mongolian Sports Press Union
1) Roman Vondrouš (Czech Republic), Horse racing – Czech News Agency
2) Adam Pretty (Australia), Infinite trails – Getty Images
3) Sergey Kivrin (Russia), Nomad Games. Gedebey, Azerbaijan – Azerbaijan Airlines Magazine
WRITING BEST COLOUR PIECE
1) Suzanne Wrack (United Kingdom), ‘There was blood everywhere’: the abuse case against the Afghan FA president – The Guardian
2) Jeremy Wilson (United Kingdom), France rocked by the tragic cost of rugby’s safety crisis, The Daily Telegraph
3) Zahra Aliee (Iran), A story of the women’s historical day in the forbidden place “Azadi” – 90tv.ir
WRITING BEST COLUMN
1) Prajwal Oli (Nepal), Nepal barely plays 50 different sports, but hosts nearly 200 sports associations – The Kathmandu Post, Nepal
2) Carlos Matallanas (Spain), Letter to Rafael Nadal – AS
2) Sebastian Ignacio Torok (Argentina), The notebooks of tennis: Marco Trungelliti, the Argentine who challenged the mafia that fixes matches – Diario La Nacion de Argentina
1) Bob Hohler, Andrew Ryan (USA), Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and football Inc. – Boston Globe
2) Tracey Holmes (Australia), The Ticket: The Horton v Sun Affair – is Sun Yang a Drug Cheat? – ABC
3) Ronny Blaschke (Germany), Football women – Critical voices of a minority – Deutschlandfunk Kultur
VIDEO SHORT FEATURE
1) Andrew Leibman (USA), Sign at all times: A film about Brian Estrada – Leibman Production
2) Marissa Boyajian (USA), Hope: The Gabe Grunewald story – NBC Sports
3) Basile Roze (France), Legends live on: Matthias Steiner – Olympic Channel
VIDEO ATHLETE PROFILE
1) Matthew Allen (USA), Birthright: becoming Toby Dawson – NBC Sports Group
2) Ben Unger (Germany), Pelé from Neubrandenburg – NDR TV
3) Claus Frederiksen (Denmark), The gold Jacket – From Struer to Hall of Fame – Nordisk Film Cinemas, TV 2 sport Denmark
1) Stuart Pollitt (United Kingdom), The Kennedy who changed the world – BBC
2) Stan Grant (Australia), The Australian dream – Lorton Entertainment
3) Jack Felling (USA), 1968 Roundtable- NBC Sports Network
YOUNG REPORTER BROADCASTING
Hamza Ait Messaoud (Morocco), Sports management – Football clubs in Morocco: a reality of three degrees
YOUNG REPORTER PHOTOGRAPHY
Mattia Ozbot (Italy) – Mattia Ozbot Photography
YOUNG REPORTER WRITING
Mažvydas Laurinaitis (Lithuania) – Tv3.lt – Famous Lithuanian trainer accused of sexual harassment