Outdoor activities have become a popular pastime during the coronavirus pandemic as adventure seekers and couch surfers alike take to hiking trails for a bit of a reprieve.
But while hiking might be a safe, socially distanced activity, the challenges of weather, nature and physical strain have led to a rash of injuries and some deaths on the trails.
In September, three hikers died in six days in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. A hiker in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington who encountered a whiteout was revived after his heart stopped for 45 minutes. And a woman who went missing for two days on Mount Whitney in California died from her injuries after being rescued in November.
“Every year there’s at least one local who dies in mountains,” said Megan Jennings of Jackson, Wyo., who lost a friend in an avalanche this spring in the nearby Grand Tetons. “Death is something that happens frequently.”
ImageCredit…Nikki Boliaux for The New York Times
People who hike often are aware of the associated risks. Jennings, 24, grew up in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, where visitors increased 88 percent in October compared with last October, the highest level for the month that the park has had. This summer, Jennings and Julia Olson, 23, set off before dawn on a clear Tuesday morning to run the Teton Crest Trail, the first time they had run the trails.
Within the first few miles, they encountered a bear and a mountain lion, escaping unscathed without needing to call for search and rescue. Jennings, who works in conservation, knew that they were as prepared as they could be. And lucky.
The increase in parkgoers — upward of 90 percent over the previous year in some parks — has added pressure to staff members and the authorities, who are already under financial and staffing constraints because of the pandemic.
“People need to be careful, especially now, as resources for search and rescue can be thin,” said Lisa Herron, a spokeswoman for the United States Forest Service at Lake Tahoe Basin in California.
The agency has not yet compiled data on injuries and deaths for the year, but several park rangers and rescue agency representatives say anecdotally the incidents have increased with the surge in visitors.
The trails, backcountry and camping sites around Lake Tahoe have a variety of weather conditions, including avalanches, snowstorms and, during wildfire season, smoke and poor air quality.
Despite wildfires across most of the West Coast that kept the Tahoe Rim Trail inaccessible at the end of summer, the trail has had more campers, hikers and bike and horse riders than in previous years. Morgan Steel, the executive director of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, said visitation was not slowing down as fast as usual.
“We usually see a significant change from fall to winter around here; with several feet of snow, you have more experienced people on the trails out there,” she said. “Though we’ve had a pretty significant drop in use, there’s been a big trend in use upward over all.”
ImageCredit…Nikki Boliaux for The New York Times
El Dorado County, one of the five counties surrounding Lake Tahoe, has backcountry and wilderness — including Desolation Wilderness, which is accessible only on foot or horseback — and has had an increase in calls this year for aid related to illness, injury and being lost, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sgt. Eric Palmberg of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said many of the calls involved people “way out of their experience level and possibly taking more risks due to the pandemic and being cooped up at home.”
At Zion National Park, there has been a 5 percent increase in visitors since it reopened in May compared to last year and a 30 percent rise in October compared to October 2019. Extreme heat has made rock climbing difficult, but bike rentals have boomed. More bikers and hikers have been calling for help with minor injuries and ailments — ankle sprains, heat exhaustion and cuts and scrapes from crashes — than in previous years.
As it gets colder and coronavirus case counts have surged to record highs across the country, many states have instituted curfews, mask mandates and stricter social distancing protocols.
ImageCredit…Nikki Boliaux for The New York Times
Though a necessity, rescuers wearing masks move slower, said David Walsh, the assistant chief of law enforcement for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. It has been difficult for responders to carry injured hikers down steep slopes, sometimes for over eight miles, in a mask.
“The increased strain can sometimes delay a six-hour rescue mission; sometimes it gets to be eight hours,” he said.
At mountainous parks, changes in temperature and conditions, depending on elevation — a 60-degree swing, in some cases — often catch new visitors off guard.
Jonathan Milne, a former ranger who works in conservation in New Hampshire and Maine, said, “When you go up in altitude, it sets off a cascade of issues.”
But nature lovers will continue coming despite the cold.
“In the winter, people are still coming for hiking and photos, as well as more enthused hikers looking for a challenge,” said Susan McPartland, who oversees visitation at Zion National Park. “It’s really hard to tell if we’ll see increased visitation this winter, but we’re still a little busier than usual this November. Someone needs to find the crystal ball.”
Ohio State on Friday night called off its football game scheduled for Saturday at Illinois after coronavirus testing revealed an increasing number of cases on the team. The cancellation was announced hours after the university revealed that Ryan Day, the head coach of the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, had tested positive and would not travel to the game.
“Further positive tests for the coronavirus were discovered after a round of PCR testing this afternoon,” the university said in a statement, without offering more details.
This is the second recent cancellation for Ohio State (4-0). It did not play its scheduled Nov. 14 game against Maryland, which suspended football activities that week because of an elevated number of coronavirus cases. The reduced schedule could imperil a shot at the Big Ten title and the national championship for the Buckeyes, who were fourth in the College Football Playoff initial ranking, released early this week.
“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said in the statement. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”
The Buckeyes have two games left on their schedule, against Michigan State on Dec. 5 and Michigan on Dec. 12. The Big 10 title game is scheduled for Dec. 19. Big Ten rules require teams to play at least six games in this abbreviated season to be eligible to play in the conference championship game, but the minimum could drop if the average number of games played by all Big Ten teams falls below six.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
Mike Tyson will box Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night. (No, we haven’t entered some kind of time warp.)
Why? Mostly because it’s 2020, nostalgia is in, Tyson had some cool sparring videos go viral and Jones was willing to participate in a bout between former champions who were certainly at the top of the sport at one time.
That was long ago.
Tyson, 54, last fought in 2005, when Billboard’s No. 1 song was Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.” Jones, 51, has been in the ring more consistently and much more recently, but is a far cry from his trilogy with Antonio Tarver from 2003 to 2005, which started around the time Jones appeared in “The Matrix Reloaded,” the second film of another popular trilogy.
Saturday night’s main event is probably best described as a spectacle primed for meme-worthy moments with a $49.99 price tag and a sure place in internet lore — at least for a couple of hours.
So what exactly is this?
On its face, it’s a boxing card with bouts that normally couldn’t carry a pay-per-view event and with live musical performances that are actually a cut above the star power often booked for fight nights.
Event organizers are promoting musical performances by Lil Wayne, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa and YG, with Ne-Yo performing the national anthem. Michael Buffer is the ringside announcer (so yes, let’s get ready for the rumble line), and Jim Gray is lined up to do postfight interviews. The TV commentary team includes another boxing great, Sugar Ray Leonard, and the undefeated U.F.C. middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
In the ring, there are seven scheduled bouts, split into a main card and an undercard.
Tyson vs. Jones, heavyweight, eight rounds
The YouTube star Jake Paul vs. the former N.B.A. player Nate Robinson, cruiserweight, six rounds
Badou Jack, a former supermiddleweight and light heavyweight champion, vs. Blake McKernan, light heavyweight, eight rounds
Hasim Rahman Jr. vs. Rashad Coulter, cruiserweight, six rounds
Jamaine Ortiz vs. Sulaiman Segawa, lightweight, eight rounds
Irvin Gonzalez Jr. vs. Edward Vasquez, featherweight, eight rounds
Juiseppe Cusumano vs. Greg Corbin, heavyweight, eight rounds.
Are these fights real?
They’re all real in that they involve two people punching each other.
Whether any of these bouts is in the context of serious competition and the sport at large is a different question.
This card is being sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission. Every bout besides the Tyson-Jones main event will appear on fighters’ records. And every bout — except the cofeature, between Jake Paul and Nate Robinson — involves full-time professional boxers.
ImageCredit…Valery Sharifulin\TASS, via Getty Images
The biggest name not in the two featured events is Badou Jack, a former world champion at 168 and 175 pounds who has headlined cards in Las Vegas, New York and Toronto. He’ll face a 33-year-old prospect named Blake McKernan. The lightweights Jamaine Ortiz (13-0) and Sulaiman Segawa (13-2-1) will fight for a regional title, as will the featherweights Irvin Gonzalez Jr. (14-2) and Edward Vazquez (8-0).
They’re the kind of fights you’d see on the undercard of a midweek show on cable — meaningful to the competitors but not big enough to cause a ripple in the broader sports world.
This could be one of the most popular fights of the year. What’s that mean for boxing?
The promoters proclaimed recently that Tyson-Jones had broken presale records at FITE.tv, the event’s online pay-per-view partner. Without numbers or comparison points, it is impossible to know what it means to break FITE.tv’s pay-per-view presale record.
But we know that Tyson, a big draw in his late-1980s heyday, remains popular as an all-purpose celebrity in 2020.
Novelty bouts like this happen periodically, often attracting a large audience. And they nearly always prompt questions about what it means for the boxing industry when a farcical fight outdraws legitimate, high-level matchups, like Terence Crawford’s dominating knockout of Kell Brook on ESPN earlier this month.
The answer to that question is that it means nothing.
Boxing is a niche sport with a reliable TV audience of one million to 1.3 million viewers for title fights on cable. That number hasn’t budged for years.
Novelty fights appeal to a broader audience by matching people who are famous for something besides boxing. Full-time fighters on the undercard might win some new fans among the drive-by viewers tuning in to watch Tyson, Jones, Paul or Robinson, and those fights won’t drain fans from Teofimo Lopez, Tyson Fury or anybody else near the top of boxing’s pound-for-pound list.
Who’s bankrolling this thing?
The website for this fight card is TysonOnTriller.com, and it is not an accident that Triller, a TikTok-style app where users post quick-hit videos, has its fingerprints all over this event.
Before Triller embarked on a spending spree to bring internet-famous content creators to the platform or faced reported allegations of inflating download and user stats, it had Tyson under contract and a plan to promote and broadcast this exhibition.
Will Saturday’s fights help Triller challenge TikTok as the it app for posting short, edited videos?
It’s hard to tell, but the tactic isn’t new. Before Triller took on TikTok, Shots tried to go head-to-head with Instagram. Shots, you probably don’t remember, was a photo-posting app backed by Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber. It was similar to Instagram except that it didn’t allow comments on posts — only likes. Mayweather would use it to break news of coming fights, urging his followers on other platforms to download Shots for major announcements.
Mayweather and Bieber couldn’t make Shots a social media fixture, and it is difficult to see how Tyson, who has 1.3 million followers on Triller, can make that app mainstream. But he does potentially expand Triller’s pool of potential users by introducing it to people old enough to remember him as the world’s best heavyweight.
The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once called Diego Maradona “the most human of the gods.” Argentines were happy to edit that down, to the singular version of the last word.
When Maradona died on Wednesday at age 60, many of his compatriots had known him their entire lives. He was the floppy-haired former ball boy who went from juggling a ball at halftime of professional matches to playing in them as a 15-year-old. He was a collector of championships, the scorer of unforgettable goals (and unforgivable ones, too), a player of incomparable talent and unimaginable excesses.
But through it all, he was theirs — the hero of a World Cup final in 1986, the loser in another in 1990 — and Argentines worshiped him for that. It was the kind of devotion that allowed them to reconcile the many sides of Maradona, to embrace the victories he brought, to accept the defeats he endured, to make peace with his flaws, his feuds and his fights with the authorities.
“What do I care what Diego did with his life?” the Argentine writer Roberto Fontanarrosa was reported to have declared once. “I care what he did with mine.”
ImageCredit…Getty Images/Getty ImagesImageCredit…Bongarts/Getty ImagesImageCredit…Associated PressImageCredit…Sygma, via Getty ImagesImageCredit…Alessandro Sabattini/Getty ImagesImageCredit…Gianni Giansanti/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty ImagesImageCredit…Mario Cocchi/Associated PressImageCredit…Canal 13/Associated PressImageCredit…Jon Hrusa/EPA, via ShutterstockImageCredit…Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesImageCredit…Natacha Pisarenko/Associated PressImageCredit…Georgi Licovski/EPA, via ShutterstockImageCredit…Cesare Abbate/EPA, via ShutterstockImageCredit…Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images
There was a commotion over in the corner of the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg. A whole section of fans seemed to have turned its eyes away from the field and trained them instead on a glass-fronted suite. They stood on their seats and craned their necks and peered over shoulders to try to get a better view.
The game itself was compelling sport: Lionel Messi and the rest of his Argentina teammates were toiling against Nigeria, when anything but a victory would have been enough to send them home in ignominy, eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in the group stage. Even that, though, could not compete with the show playing out in the suite.
Diego Maradona always had that ability, to draw the eye and to capture the attention. There were times when he resented it, when his magnetism seemed more a burden than a charm, when all he dreamed of was to be left alone, to be free of the adulation that had stalked him since he was 16.
This was not one of those times. Clad in a bright blue T-shirt, Maradona was playing to the crowd, toying with it, basking in his offstage spotlight. His every emotion, his every sensation, seemed heightened, exaggerated, performed. He rose from agony to ecstasy and all the way back. He raised his arms to the heavens, and sank in his seat. He unfurled a giant banner of himself. At one point he fell asleep. He cheered and groaned and then, later, he collapsed.
On his flight back to Moscow later that night, Maradona would send a WhatsApp voice note to a handful of Argentine journalists, blaming his state — and his display — on having drunk rather too much wine.
By then, though, darker theories were circulating. Smudges on the glass front of the executive box were taken to be evidence of cocaine. Social media examined just how often Maradona had rubbed his nose. An image taken a few days earlier, of Maradona seated on a private jet, with what appeared to be a bag of white powder next to him, circulated online.
Little of the comment expressed sympathy for a man who had struggled with drug addiction for much of his adult life. If anything, the abiding reaction was one of admiration: Here was Maradona living up to his image as a rock star, an unrepentant bad boy, the man who gave us the Hand of God proving that only the devil may care.
That, after all, is who Maradona was to vast swaths of the public. At the time of that game — and at the time of his death — the better part of two generations would have no real memory of having seen him play; at a rough estimate, nobody much under the age of 40, outside South America, would be able to draw upon recollection of what he was like at his peak.
ImageCredit…Daniel Garcia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
That is not to say they would have been ignorant of what Maradona meant. They would have heard the stories and seen the videos of his goals and the photos of his brilliance. That, after all, is how legends work: They become lore, passed from one generation to another.
But they are still memories at one remove. Millions came to the Maradona story in his chaotic retirement years. For them, his brilliance on the field was the background. What they experienced, firsthand, were the drugs and the scandals. He became, in effect, the star of his own reality television show, a celebrity rather than an athlete: Maradona, rather than Diego. Just as Keith Richards is now more readily thought of for his hedonism than his music, to many Maradona was first and foremost an outlaw, not a player.
And rather than hampering his legend, it expanded it. There are those, among soccer’s greats, who almost single-handedly transformed the game, who heralded a shift between eras, who left the sport changed from when they found it. Johan Cruyff’s ideas and his ideals fundamentally altered our perception of how soccer should be played, our reckoning of beauty. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have shifted the parameters of greatness, the window of what might be possible, our definitions of positions.
It is not to quarrel with his greatness to suggest that Maradona’s impact was different. He did not hint at the next step the game would take. He bent individual games to his will. He shaped whole teams and entire tournaments by his own hand, lifting the otherwise ordinary to greatness. He changed history, but he was no harbinger of the future.
He was, instead, the exact opposite. Maradona was the apotheosis of the game as it used to be. Almost everything in his story is redolent of a lost age, and barely any of it would have been possible even a few years after his retirement. He stayed at his first club, Argentinos Juniors, for five years. Despite a couple of attempts, unlike almost any Argentine teenage sensation of the last 20 years, he was not spirited away to Europe at the first opportunity.
ImageCredit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
When he did leave, it was for Boca Juniors, because at that stage South American clubs could still attract high-caliber talent. When Maradona did finally arrive in Europe, first at Barcelona and then at Napoli, neither club did all it might have to protect their prized asset, to help him cope with all that confronted him. The best years of his career came in Naples, not at one of the world’s established superpowers but at an underperforming club in a chaotic, downtrodden city.
Most of all, though, the way he played would soon become all but extinct. Maradona was the embodiment of Argentina’s pibe ideal — as Jonathan Wilson described him in The Guardian, he was the fulfillment of a prophecy written three decades before — a free spirit, a creature of pure imagination.
He was an autodidact, rather than a product of intense coaching. He was allowed to interpret the game as he wished — albeit in the face of a level of brutality that is also no longer feasible — rather than constrained by a defined role in a regimented tactical scheme. He was, in that sense, the last of the great individuals. That only magnifies his status. Maradona was not a bridge between eras. He was the zenith, the climax, the end.
All of that is bound up in the way he was viewed long after his retirement, as the memories of what he could do on the field started to fade, as successive generations came to him through well-worn stories and grainy YouTube footage.
Interest in Maradona has, if anything, only grown the more time has passed. Emir Kusturica released a documentary on him in 2008, and Asif Kapadia a decade later. Manu Chao and Calle 13 reference him in song. The archive of books that tell his story will only continue to grow. Like Cruyff and George Best, soccer’s other great rebels, Maradona cuts a far more compelling figure to those who never saw him than does Pelé or Franz Beckenbauer or Eusebio.
Part of that, of course, is testament to his genius. But part of it, too, speaks to a sense of nostalgia for what he represented. The outlaw figure that Maradona became turned him into an embodiment of that lost age, one in which soccer was less militarized and less predictable and less corporate and less clean-cut, one in which the individual was not necessarily subsumed into the collective, one in which heroes could be flawed and troubled and human in a way they can no longer be. His memory is entwined with a nostalgia for all that, all that has been lost.
ImageCredit…Massimo Sambucetti/Associated Press
Maradona, though he did not know it, served as midwife to that change. In 1987, at the height of his fame, his Napoli team was drawn to face Real Madrid in the first round of the European Cup. It was a mouthwatering matchup: the champion of Italy against the champion of Spain, the Neapolitan forward line of Maradona, Bruno Giordano and Careca — the Ma-Gi-Ca — against the Real of Emilio Butragueño and his Quinta del Buitre.
Silvio Berlusconi, the owner of A.C. Milan, greeted the draw with horror. Why on earth would soccer allow this to happen, he thought: the game of the year tossed away in the first round of a competition, when it might make a suitable final, a showpiece around which to build the season.
Berlusconi tasked Alex Fynn, then working with the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, to work on a concept for what he called the European Television League, in which games like this would not only be more common, but saved until the later rounds. It would prove to be the idea that resulted, five years later, in the formation of the Champions League, and the dawn of the new soccer.
That soccer, as it turned out, would not only not have space for Maradona the player, it would not be able to accommodate Maradona the idea. The concentration of power in the hands of a few superclubs and the rush of money into the sport would set off an arms race in tactics and coaching and recruitment. Within a few years, it would rid the game of its wildness and its improvisation and its renegade streak.
Maradona, and all that he represented, would be consigned to the past. He would, in his later years, come to be an avatar for soccer as it once was, to inspire a nostalgia for all that we have lost. He meant so much to so many — even those who had no memory of him — because he stood as a symbol of the culmination, the apex, of what it used to be.
ImageCredit…Mario De Fina/Associated Press
This season, as it happens, is doing a pretty good job of fulfilling Berlusconi’s image of precisely what a European Television League would look like. Four games into the Champions League group stage, and the domination of the major leagues and the superpowers has all but stripped the competition of drama.
The group stages are often — unfairly, in most cases — held up as a caution against the idea of a European Super League. They prove, the theory goes, how dull and processional this tournament would become if it were the basis of the season, rather than an addition to the regular rhythm of the domestic campaign.
This year is the opposite. If anything is likely to persuade the continent’s elite that they should strike out on their own, it is the disinterest that will infect the remaining two rounds of matches before Christmas. Six teams — Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Chelsea, Sevilla, Barcelona and Juventus — are already through to the knockout rounds, and next week’s games will confirm the tickets of a few more heavyweights.
ImageCredit…Damien Meyer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Only a handful of groups offer any lingering suspense at all, in fact, and in most cases it is a bit of a stretch. Liverpool needs a win against either Ajax or FC Midtjylland to secure passage. Manchester United needs a point against either Paris St.-Germain or RB Leipzig. Group B — where Inter Milan almost certainly will be eliminated, and Real Madrid is still in some mild jeopardy — is the honorable exception. This is what Berlusconi wanted. Whether it works for the rest of us is a different matter.
That’s all for this week. All sorts of correspondence, and particularly that about Maradona, is welcome at [email protected], or you can simply send me an anonymous message from your burner account on Twitter. This week’s Set Piece Menu barely touches on dentistry at all, which was an enormous relief to me. And, as you know by now, you really should be recommending this newsletter to everyone you know.
Leonard Kamsler, a photojournalist whose award-winning pictures of professional golf for nearly 50 years pushed the envelope of sports strobe photography as he amassed a trove of more than 200,000 images on the PGA Tour, died on Nov. 18 in Bethel, N.Y. He was 85.
His husband and only immediate survivor, Stephen Lyles, said the cause was organ failure. Mr. Kamsler had homes in Bethel and Manhattan.
Jim Richerson, president of the PGA of America, called Mr. Kamsler “the undisputed dean of golf photography.” Last month, Mr. Kamsler became the first recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism.
Practically half of that lifetime was spent on the golf course, though lugging a camera instead of clubs. Beginning in 1963, he covered 40 consecutive Masters tournaments, 17 P.G.A. championships and 22 U.S. Opens, freezing moments of action in indelible images.
“His ability to take the perfect picture at the perfect time was unsurpassed by anyone in the business,” the champion golfer Tom Watson said in a videotaped tribute when Mr. Kamsler received the lifetime achievement award.
Mr. Kamsler’s technical innovations in high-speed strobe photography broke down the complete arc of a golf swing from beginning to end in stop-motion exposures — from address to backswing to contact to follow-through — each position of the hands, arms, feet, legs, torso, head and club contained in a single sequential image suggestive of a pinwheel.
George Peper, his editor at Golf Magazine for 25 of Mr. Kamsler’s 60 years associated with the publication, said it was Mr. Kamsler who “created the swing-sequence in golf without question.”
Mr. Kamsler, he said, “learned at Edgerton’s knee,” referring to Harold Edgerton, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who pioneered stroboscopic technology. Mr. Kamsler began consulting with Mr. Edgerton in 1957.
He also developed a close relationship with Charles Hulcher, who had developed a specialty camera to record slow-motion studies of rocket launches.
ImageCredit…Leonard Kamsler/Popperfoto, via Getty Images
Mr. Kamsler’s primary instrument was a hulking Hulcher high-speed 35-millimeter camera, originally designed to shoot at some 70 frames per second. He was able to push the limit to 100, and then 200, frames per second — meaning that in less than three seconds of lightning-fast exposures he could dissect an entire golf swing.
Mr. Kamsler’s first sequential stop-motion study, of Arnold Palmer’s technique and clubhead dynamics, “created a sensation,” Mr. Peper said, adding that as a teaching tool “it was posted on every golf instructor’s wall in America.”
Mr. Kamsler documented more than 400 golf-swing sequences of other champion golfers, including Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Kathy Whitworth and Tiger Woods.
During a tournament he could be innovative in capturing the action. One risky technique was to flatten himself on the ground with his camera and have the best golfers in the world hit past his head. During one practice-tee setup, he positioned Mr. Nicklaus so close to him that the golfer’s explosive shot just missed destroying Mr. Kamsler’s lens.
According to the P.G.A., Mr. Kamsler was the first photographer to set up remote-control cameras behind the notoriously challenging holes 12 and 15 at Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters is played.
Some golfers abhorred being photographed up close during competition, so Mr. Kamsler would resort to subterfuge. He once hid himself in a garbage bag to snap the camera-shy Australian Bruce Crampton.
ImageCredit…via PGA of America
Starting in the 1970s, Mr. Kamsler widened his field to profile performers in Nashville, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. Many of his pictures became the covers of record albums.
His collection of music images was recently purchased by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, where many are on view. More than 20 of his photos were shown in “Country Music,” the 2019 documentary series by Ken Burns for PBS.
Mr. Kamsler’s strobe-lighting work also reached beyond golf. He devised one complex strobe system to capture the first attempt at a quintuple somersault by the Flying Cranes aerial troupe of the Moscow Circus. The picture ran in The New York Times Magazine on Dec. 30, 1990, with a cover article about the troupe.
A circus aficionado, he also photographed performances of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams and the magicians Siegfried & Roy’s stage act using tigers.
ImageCredit…The New York Times
As a PGA Tour fixture, Mr. Kamsler could hardly be ignored. For years he arrived at events in his candy-apple-red, tail-finned Cadillac Eldorado convertible, his six-foot frame of ample girth garbed in a golf shirt tucked into polyester slacks held up by a pair of suspenders.
His primary sports outlet was Golf Magazine, where he was a contract photographer from 1959 through 2019. His photos also appeared in many books.
Golfer pushback was part of the job of photographing players sensitive to any distraction during play. Mr. Kamsler “got the shark bite occasionally,” said Greg Norman, the Hall of Famer whose nickname was the Shark.
“He understood what that shark bite meant,” Mr. Norman added, in the video tribute, “that I was intense — and I was into my moment.”
Once, shooting an “18 holes with” celebrity-golfing feature in Miami with the actor Jack Nicholson, Mr. Kamsler reached over to push up the bill of Mr. Nicholson’s hat because it was hiding his eyes. “Nobody touches Jake’s hat!,” Mr. Nicholson barked.
Leonard Macon Kamsler was born on Oct. 18, 1935, in Raleigh, N.C., to Morton and Helen (Strother) Kamsler. His father owned a retail store, and his mother was a homemaker. His father gave Leonard his first camera at age 12. He graduated from Broughton High School in Raleigh and then from Duke University, in 1957. Moving to Manhattan, he became a $32-a-week assistant to the celebrity photographer Milton H. Greene. One of his first assignments was to photograph Marilyn Monroe.
Following a stint in the Army, Mr. Kamsler returned to Manhattan and began getting jobs as a freelance photographer.
His passion for strobe photography led him to golf — for the opportunities it afforded him “to capture motion,” Mr. Lyles, his husband, said, adding, “He began knocking on doors until they would look at his pictures.”
Mr. Kamsler sold his library of more than 200,000 images to Popperfoto, a partnership with Getty Images, in 2018.
For all his involvement with golf, the game itself never beckoned to more than his shutter finger. After a lifetime of tournament trudging, Mr. Kamsler was proud to say, “I never played a single game of golf.”
Even with all of the basketball skills that are hyped and parsed at an N.B.A. draft — scoring, 3-point shooting, rebounding, rim protection, playmaking — it was striking to hear television analysts so focused on Immanuel Quickley’s foul shooting last week.
John Calipari, Quickley’s college coach at Kentucky, also mentioned his former player’s foul-shooting skill in a telephone interview the day after the Oklahoma City Thunder took Quickley with the 25th pick, though they had already agreed to send him to the Knicks.
“The kid can flat-out stretch the court,” Calipari said of Quickley’s shooting ability, “score in all kinds of different ways, and is a great free-throw shooter.”
Quickley led Kentucky, and was third in Division I last season, with a 92.3 percent rate from the free-throw line. He missed more than one free throw in a game only once this past season.
But, free throws? Are teams actually picking players because of their free-throw shooting?
Not exactly. After all, Calvin Murphy shot over 90 percent from the line in six different seasons — leading the league twice — in his Hall of Fame N.B.A. career and could still probably make 9 of 10 today. But he is 72 and unlikely to make a comeback. Moreover, you don’t win the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Award, like Quickley did in 2020, just for shooting free throws well.
But good free throw shooting is often an indication of good overall shooting ability.
A 6-foot-3 guard from Havre de Grace, Md., Quickley was recruited to Kentucky as a point guard, and did some quarterbacking of the offense there. He also played off the ball and led the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game in 2019-20. An average of 4.8 of those points came from the foul line.
Quickley inherited his impeccable free-throw shooting from his mother, Nitrease Quickley, who played at Morgan State in Baltimore. Nitrease Hamilton, as she was known then, led Morgan State in free-throw shooting in both seasons she played for the Bears, shooting 72 percent in her junior season in 1995-96 and 80.3 percent in her senior year. When it came time for a technical foul, she was the one sent to the line.
A teacher for 22 years and now a vice principal in Harford County, Md., Nitrease said she coached her son’s recreation league team from the time he was 6 years old and said that he still has a trophy in their basement for leading the league in free-throw shooting. Nitrease said she had to talk her son out of going to the gym the night he was drafted.
“He said it was time to get to work,” she said in a telephone interview.
Nitrease taught Immanuel to pick out the “W” shape in the net under the rim as a target, to get his arm into the proper 90-degree angle, keep his feet balanced and follow through. She also stressed the need to have a piercing mental focus.
“You have to learn to block out the crowd,” she said. “Immanuel made it clear that he did not hear us cheering in the stands, and when it was time to shoot those free throws, he was focused, and that is one of the biggest keys to his success.”
Indeed, a good deal of pressure can be exerted on shooters standing at the line with ample time for overthinking and for gnawing insecurities to bubble to the surface as an entire arena zeros in on them. But Quickley proved he could handle it.
In February, Kentucky was embroiled in an SEC battle against Mississippi State, but Quickley drilled eight straight free throws in the final 47 seconds to help the Wildcats hold off the Bulldogs (he made all 14 of his free-throw attempts that night).
ImageCredit…Sam Craft/Associated Press
There is at least one recent example of a good free-throw shooter from Kentucky going on to later success. Quickley’s free-throw percentage last season was the second best in Kentucky history, behind only Tyler Herro, who shot 93.5 percent from the line in 2018-19. A year later, Herro was the breakout star of last season’s N.B.A. finals run for the Miami Heat, providing 3-point shooting.
Quickley’s percentage at the foul line last season was higher than the best college seasons from the best free-throw shooters in N.B.A. history. At the top of that list was Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who shot 89.4 percent in his best year at Davidson.
Missing free throws is like flushing away easy points. If Shaquille O’Neal had shot 70 percent from the line over his career instead of 52.7 percent, he would have averaged 25.3 points per game instead of 23.7.
The Houston Rockets’ James Harden has led the N.B.A. in free-throw attempts seven of the past eight seasons. If he shot them as well as Quickley last year, he would have averaged 35 points per game instead of 34.3.
To get to the line consistently like Harden, a player must be an offensive threat and draw contact. Quickley did it as a sophomore after a disappointing freshman year, and then a slow start to the most recent season.
“I was able to get through that in Kentucky,” he said in a video news conference after, “so I feel like I can accomplish anything that comes my way.”
As for the N.B.A., Quickley does the things that are most coveted in today’s league, Calipari said, particularly driving into the lane without needing the help of a screen. Quickley also led the Wildcats with a 42.8 percent 3-point rate, so teams will have to honor his shooting, which is what Calipari meant by stretching the court.
The Knicks could use the help, too. They ranked 27th out of 30 N.B.A. teams in 3-point shooting, and were dead last in free-throw percentage.
Calipari also said that whatever the Knicks project for Quickley as a professional, he will eventually exceed it because of his persistence and maturity, which Calipari attributed to Quickley’s family.
“If you have a good enough base, when things go wrong you don’t let it rock your world,” Calipari said. “He’s going to be able, even with setbacks, to keep climbing.”
The veteran forward Trevor Ariza was traded three times last week — from Portland to Houston to Detroit and ultimately to Oklahoma City. It was perhaps the best illustration that an expected transactional frenzy, after nine mostly dormant months for N.B.A. roster moves, had lived up to billing.
One player agent at the heart of the chaos described it to me as three months’ worth of business crammed into 10 days leading into next week’s scheduled start of training camps. From the many trades and free-agent signings that also had the N.B.A. draft wedged in between them, these are the five most important takeaways:
We didn’t get Lakers vs. Clippers in the Western Conference finals, but their free-agent face-off was a compelling consolation.
If Rob Pelinka finishes anywhere close to seventh in next season’s executive of the year balloting, as he did in 2019-20, it would represent peak pettiness from the voters (who, remember, are fellow executives rather than members of the media).
Pelinka’s Lakers are the early leaders in the race for best off-season honors. They:
Proactively traded for Oklahoma City’s Dennis Schröder in anticipation of Rajon Rondo’s exit;
Signed Wesley Matthews Jr. to replace Danny Green after Green was dealt for Schröder;
Unexpectedly signed Montrezl Harrell away from the Clippers to replace the Philadelphia-bound Dwight Howard;
And traded JaVale McGee to Cleveland to create the needed financial flexibility to sign Marc Gasol.
The Lakers also beat out their Staples Center co-tenants in a head-to-head showdown for Markieff Morris, preventing the Clippers from signing both Morris, who spent last season with the Lakers, and his twin brother, Marcus. Throw in a re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and it’s a lock that the Lakers, with a more dynamic supporting cast to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis, will start the new season as clear-cut title favorites for the first time in James’s time in Hollywood.
The Clippers, though, haven’t folded. They went into the off-season determined to make dramatic chemistry changes after a humbling second-round playoff exit to Denver. They upgraded from Harrell — who team officials quietly decided had to go — by luring Serge Ibaka away from Toronto. The additions of Ibaka and Luke Kennard (via trade with Detroit) are just the beginning; many rival teams also expect the Clippers to trade Lou Williams in their quest to create a fresh-start environment after they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets.
How Paul George rebounds from a poor postseason and how much influence an all-new coaching staff led by Tyronn Lue wields are key factors in the Clippers’ ability to stay in the same orbit as a Lakers roster widely deemed stronger than the championship group of 2019-20. Yet just knowing that the Clippers will keep trying ensures that Los Angeles, as it was in the first 72 hours of free agency, will remain one of the league capitals of intrigue.
Gordon Hayward knew what he was doing when he walked away from the $34.2 million the Boston Celtics would have owed him.
The ceiling on a four-year deal for Hayward was widely projected in the $100 million range after his myriad injury woes in Boston, where he had a player option for the coming season. Mark Bartelstein, his agent, extracted $120 million over four years from the Charlotte Hornets, whose $63 million offer sheet to Hayward in 2014 when he was a restricted free agent was matched by the Utah Jazz.
Spending nearly twice as much to land Hayward six years later is earning Michael Jordan, Charlotte’s owner, no shortage of consternation, but that’s not Hayward’s concern (or Bartelstein’s). We detailed in last week’s newsletter that the Hornets would probably be interested in trading for Houston’s Russell Westbrook if they missed out on LaMelo Ball in the draft. After the Hornets were able to select Ball at No. 3, they pivoted to overpaying Hayward rather than absorbing the remaining three seasons and nearly $133 million left on Westbrook’s contract.
So we’re about to find out if Jordan comes off worse for spending big compared with last summer, when he decided not to pay to retain the All-Star Kemba Walker. Adding to the disconcerting math for Jordan: Hayward will essentially cost $39 million for the first three seasons of his contract, if Charlotte’s only way to create sufficient cap room is to eat and pay out the remaining $27 million on Nicolas Batum’s contract over the next three seasons. Although it’s true that the small-market Hornets have never been a free-agent destination, they could have used their cap space in trades to try to bring in a marquee name on a shorter deal (like, say, Detroit’s Blake Griffin) rather than make such a long commitment to Hayward.
The Knicks, for the record, were in the Hayward chase throughout. After the Knicks weighed their own trade for Westbrook, they pursued Hayward much harder, with Coach Tom Thibodeau serving as lead admirer. The Knicks eventually decided to increase their offer to four years from two to compete with sign-and-trade interest from Indiana and Charlotte, but the Hornets went to a financial level for Hayward that no rival was willing to match.
Shooting — perhaps the easiest basketball skill to work on alone — has never been more valuable.
Silly as it sounds to say out loud, teams are looking for shooters (and keen to reward the best).
Illustration No. 1: Joe Harris, who was struggling to stay in the league through his first two seasons in Cleveland, has blossomed in Brooklyn beyond all reasonable projections and just landed a four-year, $72 million contract (with an additional $3 million in unlikely bonuses) from the Nets.
Illustration No. 2: Washington’s Davis Bertans elected not to play in the N.B.A. bubble to guard against injury after an offensive breakout in his fourth N.B.A. season, then duly agreed to a five-year deal with the Wizards worth up to $80 million on the first day of free agency.
Practice your shooting, kids. Obvious as it sounds.
The West is still the deeper conference, by far, but the East’s top six is a more competitive jumble.
Miami made a wholly unexpected trip to the N.B.A. finals and improved its roster through the acquisitions of Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless. Milwaukee will remain a contender for the league’s best regular-season record, and presumably be a better playoff team after acquiring Jrue Holiday, even after the Bogdan Bogdanovic fiasco.
Boston lost Hayward but agreed to add the bruising Tristan Thompson to fill a clear need in the frontcourt on a team-friendly contract. Toronto will certainly miss Ibaka and Gasol but has re-signed Fred VanVleet and hopes Aron Baynes can step into the center void.
Daryl Morey has been decisive upon arrival in Philadelphia by shipping out the ill-fitting Al Horford and bringing in two needed shooters: Danny Green and Seth Curry. The Nets are poised to acquire the sharpshooting Landry Shamet from a draft-night trade and, beyond re-signing Harris, should finally have both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in uniform.
The jockeying among those six teams is going to be heated and unpredictable. The rest of the West’s ability to prevent the Lakers and the Clippers from delivering the conference finals showdown they still owe us, by contrast, is questionable given that Denver, Houston and Utah have nudged their rosters forward only marginally — if at all. Golden State’s loss of Klay Thompson to a season-ending Achilles’ tendon tear likewise scuttles the Warriors’ expected surge back into contention. Portland and especially Phoenix, through Chris Paul’s arrival, have strengthened, but Dallas will have to overcome a late start to the season for Kristaps Porzingis as he recovers from knee surgery.
Nothing we’ve seen matters more than what happens with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract in the next 26 days.
The Milwaukee Bucks have until Dec. 21 to persuade Antetokounmpo to sign a five-year, $230 million so-called supermax contract extension. If he signs it, Milwaukee’s failure to acquire Bogdanovic after it was portrayed as a done deal will become a footnote.
If Antetokounmpo elects not to sign it by then, his contract situation will hang over the franchise like an ominous cloud all season, especially if the Bucks incur damaging penalties from the N.B.A.’s investigation into whether the team violated anti-tampering rules by engaging with Bogdanovic days before the start of free agency.
Milwaukee responded to the Bogdanovic deal collapse by striking deals to bring in a clutch of useful role players — the guards D.J. Augustin and Bryn Forbes and the forwards Bobby Portis and Torrey Craig — but this triage work can only be assessed with the context of the only reaction that matters: Antetokounmpo’s.
For two weeks before it appeared that the Bucks had a deal to bring in Bogdanovic alongside Holiday, there had been promising rumblings in league circles that Antetokounmpo was prepared to sign the extension. A belief was building that Antetokounmpo was likely to opt for immediate financial security by signing before the season and quietly reserving the right to try to force a trade later if he was unhappy, as George did one season after re-signing in Oklahoma City.
Now? Bogdanovic — someone Antetokounmpo, by all accounts, was eager to play with — has joined the Atlanta Hawks, while Milwaukee is enveloped by eerie silence. The Bucks can only wait for Antetokounmpo’s return from an off-season trip to Greece and then, they hope, his signature.
If Antetokounmpo withholds that signature, Milwaukee is in for the longest and most uncomfortable season with a pending free agent since Durant’s final season in Oklahoma City in 2015-16.
The Scoop @TheSteinLine
ImageCredit…Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
You ask; I answer. Every week in this space, I’ll field three questions posed via email at [email protected]. (Please include your first and last name, as well as the city you’re writing in from, and make sure “Corner Three” is in the subject line.)
Q: The media narrative of “giving up too much” in a trade is so much different when it’s not the Lakers. — @ikeonic_ from Twitter
Stein: The inference here is that the Bucks have been celebrated for swinging a trade for Jrue Holiday whereas the Lakers were roundly criticized for surrendering too much by sending an array of draft picks and young talent to New Orleans for Anthony Davis. I would submit that the truth is firmly in the proverbial middle.
The Lakers had to hear it constantly from naysayers — until they won the championship. The Bucks are probably in for the same sort of second-guessing until Giannis Antetokounmpo signs a contract extension. Milwaukee’s package for Holiday: Eric Bledsoe and George Hill combined with three future first-round picks and two pick swaps.
Maybe the Lakers were subjected to louder negativity, but that’s largely because A) they’re the Lakers and have the league’s highest profile, and B) Davis’s very public trade demand had essentially left the Lakers as the only team New Orleans could trade Davis to in July 2019. Davis’s narrow trade market, more than anything, is what made people question why the Pelicans’ haul was so big.
Now people around the league are wondering if the Bucks have gone too far, especially after a proposed sign-and-trade for Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic collapsed. That deal, before it fell apart, helped fuel a wave of Bucks optimism since it so closely followed the revelation of an agreement for the Holiday trade.
The truth is that the Bucks did give up too much for Holiday — unless it works. If that was the deal that persuades Antetokounmpo to commit his long-term future to Milwaukee, and so long as Holiday doesn’t bolt when he enters 2021 free agency, this all-in approach will be redeemed no matter how lopsided it may look today.
Q: We know Tim Duncan made his living on bank shots (and all-time great defense), but do we know how many points he actually scored with bank shots? Also: Is he the bank-shot leader or is there someone else more prolific in scoring off the glass? — PK (Gdansk, Poland)
Stein: As noted in this April piece on Duncan after his selection to the Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2020, bank-shot data has only been tracked in the N.B.A. since the 2003-4 season. So a comprehensive answer to your question, sadly, is practically impossible.
What I can tell you, thanks to some typically priceless research from my former ESPN teammate @MicahAdams13 is that Duncan converted 945 bank shots (good for 1,890 points) over the final 13 seasons of his career, shooting 59.1 percent on bankers over that span.
Q: You forgot Lawrence Frank! — Michael Oruch
Stein: Michael’s email arrived in response to the item in last week’s newsletter about the three former Nets head coaches who now hold jobs as assistant coaches in Los Angeles: Kenny Atkinson with the Clippers and Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins with the Lakers.
We didn’t “forget” Lawrence Frank because Frank is not an assistant coach. Perhaps he should have been mentioned because of his Nets ties, too, but Frank is the Clippers’ president of basketball operations after moving out of the coaching ranks.
ImageCredit…Pat Sullivan/Associated Press
Golden State’s Klay Thompson last week became the fourth player who was selected to the 2018 All-Star Game to tear his Achilles’ tendon. The others in an unfortunate run of star players succumbing to the league’s most dreaded injury: DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall and Kevin Durant.
Marcus Morris of the Los Angeles Clippers landed a four-year contract worth $64 million in free agency — more than $60 million higher than his twin brother, Markieff, came away with by settling for a one-year veteran minimum deal to stay with the Lakers. Early in their careers, in 2014, when Markieff Morris was the more established N.B.A. player, they signed deals with the Phoenix Suns worth a combined $52 million that the brothers were told they could split however they wanted. Markieff Morris took $32 million over four years, with Marcus receiving $20 million over the same span.
Last week’s draft was the 11th in a row in which a college freshman was selected No. 1 over all: Georgia’s Anthony Edwards by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The last non-freshman to be drafted with the No. 1 pick was the Oklahoma sophomore Blake Griffin in 2009.
Obi Toppin, the Knicks’ draft selection at No. 8, led the nation with 107 dunks last season at Dayton.
Last week’s draft was also the N.B.A.’s first in 45 years, dating to the 1975 draft, that was not held in June.
Hit me up anytime on Twitter (@TheSteinLine) or Facebook (@MarcSteinNBA) or Instagram (@thesteinline). Send any other feedback to [email protected].
One morning this month, on the warm waters of the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt, Alenka Artnik donned a thin purple wet suit and a monofin, secured a four-pound weight around her neck, and fastened herself to a thin line she held loosely in one hand.
Then she dove. Deep, with no mask or goggles but with her nostrils clamped. The line extended 114 meters (374 feet) below the surface and, holding her breath, Artnik was determined to get to the bottom of it and come back up under her own power. If successful she would set a new world record.
This feat was not for the faint of heart, or lung.
Nicholas Mevoli, the first American to break the 100 meter barrier with a monofin in a so-called free dive, died while attempting to break a second American record in the sport seven years earlier, after surfacing with a lung injury. Natalia Molchanova, a 41-time world-record holder and 23-time world champion — widely considered the greatest free diver of all time — vanished during a training dive in Spain less than two years later.
But after a sleepless night, Artnik, a 39-year-old Slovenian, wasn’t focused on danger or death. She needed to remain present and calm. Just after 8 a.m., Artnik packed her lungs with air and descended, kicking down into the inky blue.
There are three recognized depth categories in the sport of competitive free diving. In “free immersion,” athletes pull themselves along a rope down to depth and back without wearing fins. In “constant no fins,” athletes use a modified breaststroke. In “constant weight,” the one in which Artnik sought her world record, divers dolphin-kick to depth and back wearing a monofin. It’s the deepest discipline and the most celebrated. Any weights used to help them sink, must return to the surface with them or they will be disqualified.
In deep water, barometric pressure cranks up roughly every 10 meters, or approximately 33 feet. At 20 meters, Artnik’s lungs were compressed to a third of their normal capacity, so she moved the air she’d need to equalize her sinuses from her lungs into her mouth. That’s what divers call a mouth fill. If any air escapes through their lips, diving deep becomes impossible without injury.
Involuntary physiological changes were triggered by the pressure as well. As her lungs continued to compress, blood flow shifted from her arms and legs into her core. Her pulse slowed to half her resting rate as her body adapted to use the oxygen in her bloodstream more efficiently, to keep her alert and alive. That’s all part of what scientists have called the mammalian diving reflex, as a similar response occurs in seals, dolphins and whales.
At 70 meters, Artnik closed her eyes, stopped finning and the momentum sucked her down like a tractor beam. She surrendered to the free-fall, knowing it’s best not to think or move at all. Thoughts require oxygen. Stress torches it. As she sank deeper the increased pressure made her feel as though she was being hugged by the ocean.
“I definitely felt like I belonged there in that moment,” Artnik said. “It felt so right.”
Yet by the time the alarm on her dive watch chimed at 109 meters, five meters above her target depth, she’d been underwater for almost two minutes. She opened her eyes, and when she reached the end of the line at 114 meters, grabbed one of the fluttering tags at the end it, turned and started her ascent toward the surface. To reach light and air again, she’d have to swim against the weight of the water, which feels like swimming against a current.
Her next breath was still almost two minutes away.
Artnik didn’t discover free diving until she was 30 years old. At the time, she was managing a skate shop in Slovenia, and lacked purpose. “I was drinking quite a lot and sort of sabotaging myself,” she said. “I felt that I had something more to give.”
In December 2011, on a lark she jumped into a pool workout where a group of seven beginners and intermediate free divers performed underwater laps. She held her breath and joined them. She was hooked immediately. She took her first free diving course in the open water the following spring and reached 28 meters (92 feet) in the Mediterranean Sea.
After her father died in 2013 and the skate shop went out of business in 2015, Artnik sold her family house and traveled to Egypt, training in deep water full time. Back then her personal best was 49 meters (161 feet).
That’s advanced, not elite.
When Molchanova disappeared, she was the only woman to have surpassed 100 meters, setting the world record at 101 meters (331 feet). Her death left a void at the top of the sport, especially among women. But in May 2018, Alessia Zecchini of Italy pushed the mark to 105 meters (344 feet). Later that year, Artnik shocked much of the free diving world by matching it. Days later, Zecchini extended the record to 107 meters (351 feet).
In August 2019, Artnik broke Zecchini’s world record for the first time at the CMAS World Championships in Roatán, Honduras, with a dive to 111 meters (364 feet). By the end of that event Artnik and Zecchini held the record together at 113 meters (371 feet).
The two have become close as they have electrified women’s free diving by hitting depths even the great Molchanova never approached. They were expected this year to continue to push the limits of the sport and one another. But the pandemic forced the cancellation of competitions from Europe to Asia to the Caribbean. Nationwide lockdowns made training difficult.
In late September, when a buzz rippled through the European free diving community that Egypt was open for business, Artnik and dozens of other European athletes flew in to train in the Red Sea. Artnik spent weeks diving every other day and getting progressively deeper. By late October, she felt she could get the record.
Andrea Zuccari, the owner of a free dive shop in Sharm el Sheikh that caters to advanced divers, set up the competition with just two weeks’ notice as a vehicle for Artnik’s record attempt. A team of sanctioned judges flew in to certify the dives. The rest was up to Artnik.
What makes Artnik such an impressive athlete is her ability to tap into power while moving with effortless fluidity. Tito Zappalá was Artnik’s deep safety diver for her record attempt. He had been one of her safety divers throughout her time in Sharm, and on Nov. 7, rode an underwater scooter to 60 meters to meet her and monitor her ascent. He marveled as he watched her glide toward the surface, her eyes closed. She reminded him of something the renowned Italian free diving pioneer Enzo Maiorca used to say.
“Try and be like milk in the water. Dissolve yourself in water,” Zappalá said. “She’s like this. She has the feeling. She has the big connection with the sea.”
The ascent is the most perilous part of any deep dive because when divers’ oxygen levels get too low, which can happen on dives that extend beyond three minutes, they are at risk of blacking out. Safety divers are trained to pick up on signs of hypoxia and, if they feel a diver is in danger, grab and ferry them to the surface.
But when a second safety diver joined them at 30 meters, Artnik continued to swim with purpose and control. A third safety diver met them at 10 meters, and Artnik still did not crack. She finned just three more times and calmly floated to the surface after a dive of three minutes and 41 seconds.
She gripped the line and took sharp inhalations to promote re-oxygenation. Then performed the necessary surface protocols for the judge. When a diver pushes their limits, these seemingly simple tasks can become impossible because of a loss of motor control or consciousness. Artnik removed her nose clip, showed the judge her tag and flashed the OK sign, like she’d just jogged around the block. She said the magic words softly but clearly, “I’m OK.”
When the judge flashed his white card signaling a record, the safeties and the small band of athletes and spectators erupted in cheers and pounded the water into a froth. Her exit was so clean that when Zecchini watched the video, even she was in awe.
“I was really happy for her,” she said. “She did an amazing dive and an amazing exit.”
In fact, Artnik’s commanding performance suggests — even as a world-record holder who has helped push women’s free diving to a level few considered possible five years ago — she has even more to give.
That she could go deeper still.