Sport is a forum where it cannot be hidden, where the feelings that are pulsing through someone’s core at a particular moment – exhilaration or devastation, delight or fury – can be captured in a single image.
It was there when Lionel Messi, maybe the greatest football player of all time, finally hoisted the World Cup trophy for Argentina. The euphoria, unmistakable.
It was there when Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States, maybe the greatest women’s skier of all time, sat on the side of the course at the Beijing Olympics after skiing out in the first run of the slalom race, hiding her face from the world. The disappointment, unmistakable.
Everyone knew what they felt in those moments.
Sometimes, it works the other way. The image makes the viewer feel something as well. Like a shot of a Team Ukraine member competing in artistic swimming at the world championships in Hungary, droplets of water spraying off her body while she competed for a war-torn country. You could feel the pride. Or a shot of two men on the ground, trying to protect themselves from a rampaging bull in Mexico City. You could feel the fear.
Capturing the moment takes no more than a sliver of a second, but these images live forever. Many from 2022 are unforgettable. Serena Williams in the spotlight at the US Open, presumably for the final time. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all holding back emotion in the same image at the Laver Cup, Federer’s final event before retirement. The enormity of that moment was not lost on any of them as they realised that the greatest three-person rivalry the sport had ever seen was over.
A picture, as the cliche says, is worth 1,000 words. Sometimes, the picture conveys words as well.
“I’m a good curler. I have confidence. Let’s have fun,” Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa wrote on her right hand in English during the Beijing Olympics.
The affirmation must have helped: She won silver, improving one spot from her bronze-medal finish at Pyeongchang four years earlier.
And many needed no additional explanation. Scottie Scheffler, hoisting his putter skyward as the warm Georgia sun shone down when he won the Masters. Mike Krzyzewski, college basketball’s all-time winningest coach, sitting on a courtside stool as he led Duke at the Final Four for the final time. Anna Hall, throwing up her arms on her way to winning bronze in the heptathlon at the world track and field championships. Hector Neris of the Houston Astros, leaping to celebrate his team being two innings away from closing out the Philadelphia Phillies and winning the World Series.
The moments were just that, moments. This year is gone. Next year awaits. But these images from 2022 will live on, a forever reminder of what this year made us feel.