Timing is everything, especially when it comes to sports photography. The click of a camera at the right time can capture anything from moments of disaster to moments of complete and utter athletic perfection. The painstaking hard work these athletes go through and the crazy risks they take are all revealed with a snapshot of the most epic millisecond.
Check out this collection of incredible sports shots taken in action. Somehow the photographer managed to catch these athletes in some of the most awkward, and impressive positions.
Is This Even Humanly Possible?
Sliding around an ice rink with a pair of bladed shoes sounds like a proper dosage of danger. However, professional ice skaters tend to push things to the limit. Before looking at this picture, we had no idea that a human can bend that way.
This girl bends and twirls with such effortless grace. The photographer got the perfect shot of just how insanely talented and elegant ice skaters are, even when they’re spinning on one leg.
That’s It, I Give Up!
We can all relate to this guy. His expression tells us everything and it looks like he is ready to call it a day.
The Yankee player gave it his all, but it looks like today is just not his day. He’s dropping the bat and is getting the heck out of there.
When Two Worlds Collide
The great thing about sports is that it brings people together from around the world. The players all come from a variety of different countries, religions, and cultures that would otherwise never cross paths. This picture captures that perfectly.
While one team is fine with showing skin during this beach volleyball match, the other goes for a much more conservative uniform. No matter what they decide to wear, the thing they have in common is their love for the sport and the freedom to play!
Well, This Is Bittersweet
Although this NBA player might have made a game-changing basket, he forgot about the important fact that what goes up must come down. The photographer snapped this unfortunate moment of the ball falling back down and straight on his face.
We hope that the points earned were worth the smack in the face and that he was able to shake it off and continue playing.
Gymnastics Just Got Creepy
Ok, is it just us, or does it look like this woman is missing her head? Gymnastics is a sport that requires flexibility, but we never knew a head could bend that far backward.
The seemingly floating body does, in fact, have a head. Her back bend skills are simply on another level and the photographer chose the perfect moment to capture it.
It Hurts to Look at This
You don’t get to see these faces when the re-runs are on the screen. If you’ve never had a soccer ball to the face, then you have no idea how much pain this player is in.
This hit was clearly unexpected, but the photographer none the less managed to catch the aftermath in all its glory. It looks like he might have needed some time to shake that one off.
Pellegrini Has a Cathartic Moment
The moment gold medalist swimmer Federica Pellegrini won her fourth 200-meter world title in the summer of 2019, a photographer luckily caught her moment of recognition. The Italian swimming legend’s facial expression says it all – she just realized her hard work paid off and this is her moment.
Her expression wouldn’t look out of place in a biblical oil painting and for good reason – not many people in the world get to experience what this feels like. Scroll through the article to see more of Pellegrini as we explain more about her complicated relationship with sports.
Moments Before the Worst Headache of Her Life
This is the best surprise photobomb we have ever seen. The women just wanted to take an innocent selfie of herself at the baseball game but she would soon find out that selfies can be more dangerous than they seem.
Moments after this photo was taken, this woman finally understood just how painful a baseball to the head can be. We’re not sure if she was able to remember the whole thing but at least she has this snapshot to prove it.
How Are These Positions Even Possible
Pictured here is a game of sepak takraw, or kick volleyball. This sport, native to Southeast Asia, limits the players to only using their feet, knee, chest, and head.
This limitation makes for some strange positions in an effort to get the ball over the net. The photo here makes them look like they are break dancers in the middle of an epic dance battle.
The Helicopter Arm
This baseball pitcher has perfected his external rotation and we imagine the fast ball that followed was probably one for the books. He looks like he’s swinging his arm in a full 360 motion!
It’s hard to tell if it’s his arm that’s backward or if it’s his head. His opponents better watch out, that ball clearly has some momentum behind it.
“Oh Shoot, I’m Not Going to Land This!”
The look of terror on this gymnast’s face says it all. Her expression looks worried that she isn’t going to finish this routine unscathed but our guess is she ended up sticking that landing.
It’s not often we get to see the face of the gymnasts as they are flipping and splitting across the floor or beam. This rare picture perfectly captures the level of concentration needed to do so. She almost looks like a wild cat pouncing towards her prey.
The Ripple Effect On a Whole New Level
Ever wonder what happens to your face when you get punched by a professional boxer? This slow-motion picture shows you exactly what goes down!
You can see the force traveling through his entire face. That punch had a ton of momentum behind it and we are sure the aftermath was not such a pretty picture.
Right in the Face!
Rickie Weeks of the Milwaukee Brewers’ got an unexpected surprise during the fourth inning of this game. The baseball missed the bat and went straight to Week’s jaw.
We imagine he was ready to bypass home base and run straight to his real home after this unfortunate mishap. Somebody get him an icepack and a well-deserved vacation.
Skidding Into the End Of Their Careers Like
Figure skaters are known for their agility and elegance. Their performances are meant to take the audience’s breath away with their impressive jumps and effortless spins. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned.
Here is the side of figure skating that’s not so graceful and appealing. This duet took a tumble which ended in a painful face plant right on the cold hard ice. Unfortunately, the photographer managed to catch the fall and the ice skaters look of worry and pain.
Former First Lady Needs to Watch Out!
Michelle Obama is the most classy, put-together woman we’ve seen in the media. Even the classiest of ladies can sometimes lose their cool. Especially when a tennis ball is rushing towards them.
This photo of her dodging a tennis ball might be the only shot of her freaking out! Knowing the former first lady, we are sure she made up for this moment with some killer serves.
Parallel to the Water!
Wake boarder’s got to look himself straight in the eye! This photo captured a moment of sheer perfection. It’s hard to tell if he is about to wipe out or he really is that skilled.
Either way, the athlete keeps his cool as he balances himself just parallel over the water. We are glad there was a photographer around to snap this shot. You can even see his reflection in the water!
Puffer Fish Vibes
The shot put event might look easy but it’s way harder than you might think. It takes a lot of strength to throw a metal ball as far as possible. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at this guy’s face!
He must be straining every muscle in his body to produce this expression. He almost looks like a pufferfish on the defense. Lucky for us, someone was around to capture his effort. We don’t imagine he will be hanging this one on the wall though.
Super Mom Takes the Prize!
Everyone at the baseball game wants to catch a ball and take it home as their prize. The guy on the right is reaching for his hopes and dreams, but super mom got in the way.
Just because you have a baby in one hand, doesn’t mean you can’t make an awesome catch with the other!
Pre Body Slam!
Sometimes in basketball, you have to go for the shot no matter what the consequences. That is definitely the case in this perfectly timed photo. One player decided to take one for the team and made a dive for it.
He wasn’t the only one to take a hit for his braveness. The guy in the white knows there’s no escaping his faith. Looks like he’s going to get a little too close for comfort with his competitor in just a few seconds.
Well, That Backfired!
Ever heard the term ‘crack of the bat?’ It refers to the sound the bat makes when it hits an oncoming baseball. Well, it looks like this player took it a bit too literally as his bat actually cracked in half.
Let’s hope a good play came out of this epic swing. If not, at least we have this awesome picture. He has got to be proud of the sheer power it took to manage this. Hopefully, he wasn’t too attached to this bat.
When Two Become One
Both of these players wanted to head the ball, but what seems to have happened is that they fused together into one human!
Though it’s cool that they look like a radioactive human, the inevitable head butt that occurred just moments later had to hurt!
Toes to Head!
This move is incredible. And so is the photo! This high jumper is straining so much to make sure her back doesn’t touch the bar.
Her toes are so close to touching the back of her head. If we were her, we would have this photo framed. Looks like all that hard work and training paid off.
Is This the Matrix or a Swimming Meet?
The photographer managed to capture the swimmer just before coming out of the water. It almost looks like he was reborn in the Keanu Reeves movie, “The Matrix. “
Nerdy references aside, this is a great example of a perfectly timed photo. The swimmer looks completely in his element as he fights to win the meet.
The Most Emotionally Loaded Picture Ever
This photo is jam-packed with emotions. There is a wide range of people and feelings here. Some are excited to catch the ball while others fear for their lives and take cover. And then there are the completely apathetic people that are just watching this disaster play out.
It’s pretty hilarious to see all these different reactions happening at the same time. We have no idea what happened in the end, but we’re hoping this ended with someone catching the ball and no one getting hurt.
This Is the Face of Desperation
Things aren’t looking up for this distressed wrestler. He catches a desperate glimpse of the photographer as he sticks his head up for air mid-match.
He just has a look on his face that screams “help me.” We can’t believe he continued fighting after this.
This Is The Last Place He Wanted to End Up
Cricket players really give the game every ounce of energy they’ve got. This player took a large stride and lost his balance along the way.
He wound up finding his face in the most embarrassing place possible, and to make matters worse; a photographer caught it on camera.
Is This One Woman?
Either this woman is extremely long, or those legs belong to someone else. The moment that the photographer caught makes it look like these two women are literally attached at the hip.
Although synchronized swimming is usually a very calculated art, sometimes things get a little messy.
Actually, this swimmer is not cannon-balling into the pool. The photograph was taken right in the middle of her impressive and calculated flips into the water.
It looks like she’s going to make an epic splash when she lands! If only the Olympics could promote splashing, then things would really be fun.
When You Mistake Someone’s Head for the Ball
Clearly, this goalie got caught up in the moment and thought he was defending the net from an incoming ball. His instincts propelled him to punch a player out of the way instead.
The guy below him is laughing, but soon he’ll see that this man might be in desperate need of a nose job.
What the Heck Happened Here?
So let’s break this picture down. On the right side, we see this players helmet in mid-air. On the left side, we see who’s helmet it is.
We have no idea how this guy ended up in that position, and how his helmet flew so far away from him. This is an epic moment that hopefully ended with the baseball player saving his neck from a serious break.
Even Horses Need a Break
This horse was not having it, and he made that very clear right in the middle of the track. He quickly turned this race into a rodeo and threw the jockey off his back.
You can tell by the coy look in the horse’s eye that this was no accident. We hope no one placed high bets on this stallion.
This picture could not have been timed more perfectly. The baseball player did not take any chances trying to make it to the base in time and made an epic leap for it.
The force of his leap of faith is clear since you can see his helmet flying off to the side. We hope this power slide paid off.
Is This Why Non-Americans Call It Football?
Poor guy could not have seen this coming. Number 28 was so focused on the game and keeping the ball on his side of the field that he may have kicked a little higher than necessary.
Number 9 looks like he is in pure shock. We are sure the pain set in shortly after. We think his team deserves some penalty kicks for this one.
The look in their eyes makes us think of two kids playing basketball past their bedtime. Looks like mom walked in ‘after lights’ out and they are caught in the act.
Even though they are on opposite teams, these two look like great friends! This photo really makes us wonder what has them so shocked. Regardless, it doesn’t look like either of them are going to give up on that ball.
If that is not the face of fear, then I don’t know what is. Irish tennis player, Louk Sorensen just barely dodges a tennis ball to the face at the 2010 Australian Open.
Turns out, that despite this near disaster moment, Sorensen made history that year by being the first Irish player to win a match at the tournament. We are glad your face made it out alright Louk.
Is this ballet or basketball? It looks like this New York Knicks player, J.R. Smith is performing a graceful solo for all his friends to see. He is almost doing the splits in the air!
In reality, this photo is probably capturing Smith nailing a slam dunk. Looks like an intense moment. You can see the anticipation from everyone behind him. Either way, seems he put on a great show!
Taking In Some Sweet Oxygen
The photographer caught this swimmer, mid-race, right in the middle of a deep breath. These are the moments that onlookers rarely get to see from the bleachers.
The water cascading from the swimmer almost makes it look like he is standing under a natural waterfall. Unfortunately, the race against Michael Phelps probably isn’t as serene.
An Uninvited Surfing Buddy
Speaking of lack of serenity…This surfer might be in for a gnarly surprise. He is nailing that gigantic wave, but he isn’t the only one along for the ride.
The surfers epic ride looks impressive and so is the perfectly timed photo. Let’s hope this dude doesn’t meet any new friends on his way down from the wave.
What Are Friends For?
Well, this is awkward. Either this guy found a flawless new defense tactic, or he is just helping out a friend. Either way, I doubt this scene ended in a two-pointer.
This player picked the worst time to go digging for gold. I guess there are no boundaries when it comes to true friendship…
He’s Got Style, He’s Got Grace
Remember our favorite basketball ballerina? Well, this football star might consider inviting him for a duet. He dodged that tackle with such grace, he deserves a standing ovation.
How did he even jump this high? The photographer caught him at the best angle, he looks like he could be flying.
Now That’s Gonna Leave a Bruise
Sometimes the best action shots happen off the field. Usually, spectators are ready to catch a stray baseball but a bat is rarely expected. This poor guy had no idea what hit him.
He might have been at the wrong place at the wrong time but we are happy that the photographer was around to capture the moment. All we can say is that we hope he got to take that stray bat home with him.
Every Man for Himself!
What a couple of faces of sheer panic. Looks like these guys just saw the boogie man and are making a run for it. The photographer snapped the chaos right in the nick of time.
It might not be a make-believe monster that’s headed their way, but the soccer ball certainly is. The stress is real for these guys.
Looking Flawless on the Fly
Here’s our favorite tennis legend doing what she does best. Serena Williams does not let any tennis ball fly past her, and this one is no exception.
The photographer caught her at the perfect moment, as she gears up for what’s sure to be an epic backhand swing. Even in this tense moment of athleticism, Serena manages to look flawless.
A Real Skull-crusher
This photo really captures the brute force behind that back kick. You can see the ripple effect in action as his foot wipes the smile straight off his opponents back.
At least it wasn’t his real face that took the hit. That would not be nearly as aesthetically pleasing as this scene here.
Speaking of hit to the face, this baseball player was not so lucky. Seems like he had butterfingers that day and could not keep his grip on the ball.
We hope he at least managed to slow down the ball’s momentum or he is sure to walk away from this game with a broken nose. At least he has a cool photo to go with it.
The Cinderella of Rio
Someone must have forgotten to tie her shoes in the morning. Ethiopian track star, Etenesh Diro was a crowd favorite at the 2016 Olympics in Rio after she completed her 3000 meters steeplechase with only one shoe.
Diro lost her shoe after a mid-race collision. Instead of giving up, she kept racing and finished the race in 7th place. After filing an appeal, Diro was granted permission to advance to the next round.
When You’re Too Stubborn to Stop and Ask for Directions
At first glance, you might assume this is photo-shopped, but we are here to tell you that this epic photo is real. Pictured here is Robbie Madison, an Australian motorbike stunt rider.
Robbie clearly knows no limits and decided to take his stunts to the Pacific. He spent two years preparing for this event. We are just glad that a skilled photographer was there to capture this stunt in all its majesty.
Someone Call for Halep!
Romanian tennis player Simona Halep is caught in a not so flattering predicament. That tennis ball is heading straight to her noggin and we aren’t sure she had time to dodge it.
It’s a wonder how this photographer managed to catch this moment. There’s no hiding her fear. Her face says it all.
Seems like this basketball referee is of royal stature. Either that or he is just standing at the right place at the right time and we commoners are lucky enough to have a photo to prove it.
He might not have anyone bowing down to him but we all know that sports refs sometimes think they are royalty none the less. By the looks of the scoreboard, looks like San Antonio might be happy to be subjects in this guy’s kingdom.
May I Have This Dance?
Is this a wrestling match or a ballroom competition? These wrestlers look like partners on the dance floor as they waltz arm in arm on the mat. Lucky for us, their romantic moment was captured for all to see.
It looks like these guys are overcome by emotion by their picture-perfect moment. We just wonder who is leading this dance. Our guess is the guy in blue.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Antwaan Randle El gets in a bit of a bind during a game against the Cleveland Browns. The player announced his retirement in 2012.
We imagine his decision to retire has a lot to do with predicaments such as the one photographed here. This is a perfect example of the dangers of keeping the ball. We can’t imagine how sore he was after this game.
I Believe I Can Fly
Or at least she certainly wishes that she could. We hope this photograph is not as it seems and her routine is going according to plan. Her facial expression says otherwise.
She looks like she is headed for an uncomfortable landing. She braces for impact on her way down from what was surely a tricky move.
Keep Your Head in the Game
Looks like Norwegian Hockey player, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has lost his head. This confusing photo, taken in a heated moment during the Finland vs. Norway game, definitely raises some questions.
His helmet must have fallen off from the force of the tackle. It appears to be floating mid-air and his head is nowhere to be seen. The guy sitting in the crowd does not look impressed by his invisibility act.
Oh Em Gee!
Professional basketball player, Drew Gooden has no chill in this perfectly timed photo. He either looks terrified or overcome with excitement by the sight of that incoming ball. Gooden played for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2010 until 2013.
Throughout his NBA career, he also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and The Washington Wizards… I guess he managed to get over his secret fear of basketballs.
Andre De Grasse and Usain Bolt share a laugh as they cross the finish line. The two track stars placed first and second in this 200m semi-final at the 2016 Rio Olympic games. The pair also embraced following the race, taking their bromance to a new level of adorable.
Bolt took home three gold medals in Rio, which was the last Olympics of his career. Although De Grasse did not earn a gold medal, he did become the first male athlete to win a medal for Canada.
Cowboy Getting Bullied
Not everyone has the guts to ride an angry bull with the inevitable end result of getting thrown off. This guy had to know this would happen but that fact doesn’t help soften his landing.
The bull looks cheeky as ever as he watches the rider fall out of the air headfirst. We hope this guy can appreciate a good photo because this gem deserves to be framed.
We aren’t so familiar with the rules of wrestling but something tells me this move is not regulation. All this guy has to do is bite down on his competitor’s hand and it’s game over.
The Canadian competitor doesn’t seem to realize this and he keeps his grip held tight. We can’t help but wonder if this photo was used to assign some penalty points.
Don’t Try This at Home
This soccer game snapshot looks like it was taken straight out of a high stake action movie. The players could easily be photoshopped to look like they are avoiding a ticking bomb.
These might not be Hollywood worthy stunts, but this dive towards the ball is nothing short of explosive. There are no limits to what this guy will do to keep the ball out of his goal.
Up High for Tiger
Golf champion, Tiger Woods high fives his caddie at the 2005 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. This marked the ninth out of Woods’ fifteen major championships.
His performance also earned him his fourth green jacket, which is the official attire one by members of the Augusta National. We would have to agree that his excited high five was well warranted.
Retired NBA player, Dennis Rodman makes a dive for a loose ball. Rodman is famous for defensive moves like these, earning his nickname, “the worm.”
It’s photos like these that help instill his basketball legacy as one of the best defensive players of all time. Rodman played for the Detriot Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.
Just Keep Swimming
There’s no taking this ping pong player out of his zone. He looks like a fish out of water who just spotted today’s dinner and won’t give up until he catches his prey.
We can all learn a thing or two about concentration from this guy. Who knew keeping your eye on the ball could be taken to such expert levels. He’s in a staring contest that he does not intend on losing.
Speaking of Eye on the Ball
We’re afraid she didn’t have much of a choice in that regard. The ball is coming right for her face and there’s nowhere else to look but straight ahead.
She can tell what is about to happen and just can’t look away. Her look of fear spells it out and luckily the photographer was there to capture the moment right before it got ugly.
Italian figure skaters, Stefania Berton, and Ondrej Hotarek compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The pair are caught in action as Hotarek effortlessly throws his partner over his head.
True to their roots, the Italian skater looks like he is spinning dough over his head and is ready to prepare the most delicious pizza the world has ever tasted.
Game, Set, Rage
This tennis player is not messing around. She had some anger to unleash and she took it all out on the ball. We would hate to be her opponent on this particular match.
This girl takes fierce to a whole new level. We can’t imagine what is going through her head right now but we hope that she was able to leave it all on the court.
When the Beat Drops
We wish we got the invite to this dance party. These soccer players look like they forgot about the game and instead just wanted to dance like no one was watching.
Although they are on opposing teams, their moves look perfectly choreographed. We aren’t sure if mid Soccer game flash dances are a thing yet but they should be.
Head Held High
This photo definitely warrants a double-take. The rhythmic gymnast seems to have lost her head in the middle of her routine and her ball has taken its place.
This split-second moment looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. Gymnastics and photography seem to make a great pair because of quirky snaps like these.
B-boying for Life
These wrestlers show off their headstand skills mid-match and we can’t help but be impressed. They might consider taking up a side gig in break dancing.
They can go far with these b-boy skills if wrestling doesn’t work out. We just hope they both ended this match without any neck problems.
A Not so Graceful Landing
Figure skating is known for being one of the most graceful sports to ever exist and watching a professional skater perform their routine is truly awe-inspiring. Often, when pursuing some of their more ambitious stunts, audiences can’t help but hold their breath between landings.
Usually, however, seasoned skaters manage to nail even the most impressive moves all while making every twist, turn and, jump look effortless. Accidents do happen and skaters can end up fumbling a landing or falling mid routine. Never have we seen an ice skating fail as big as this one. This poor skater had so much momentum going for her, she went straight through the rink’s wall.
New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, is caught in the heat of the moment. We can tell by his wind up that this football is gonna go the distance.
This photo not only captures Brady in his element, but there’s plenty of game action happening around him. Despite this, he stays in the zone and we are right there with him.
Gold medalist swimmer, Federica Pellegrini, stretches before her event in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The photographer caught the Italian superstar lost in thought as she mentally prepares for her race. Pellegrini has struggled with anxiety issues and has a tendency to panic before or even during her races.
She learned to deal with these anxieties by employing a sports psychologist who helped her work through the pre-race jitters. She was surprised to get a massive amount of support from the crowd in 2012, which also helped calm her nerves before jumping in the water. We just hope she remembered to take off those sneakers.