He is highly decorated and one of the best sports photographers of all time. Matthias Hangst, 44, has now managed the hat trick after his successes in 2020 and 2021 and has won WELT AM SONNTAG’s Sven Simon Prize, which is endowed with 10,000 euros, for the “Sports Photo of the Year” for the third time in a row.
His picture entitled “Underwater Show” shows the start of the women’s triathlon at the European Championships in Munich. While some swimmers are still stuck in the long diving phase, one is conspicuously early on the water surface. Hangst captures them perfectly, and so his picture impresses with different levels of sharpness.
In 2021, Hangst won with a photo of ski jumping, where no spectators were allowed due to the pandemic. The grandstands that had already been set up were filled with cardboard figures. Just a year later, everything is different, and Hangst still remembers how the 2022 winning picture came about. Munich hosted the European Championships in several sports. The triathletes started in the Olympic Park. Because the artificial swimming area was so small, they came out of the water after one lap, ran over a ramp and jumped in again for another lap. Great for the spectators, and so many came on this sunny day, especially since the start was in the afternoon. Normally a triathlon starts very early in the morning, when the light conditions are not that good.
Matthias Hangst climbed onto a hill not far from the starting point and mingled with the spectators. From there he had an optimal view of the starting field and was able to photograph the participants as they dived in. He waited until the first arm came out of the water, the focus and incidence of light were right – and there it was, the sports photo of the year. “The jury understood that timelessness has a very special appeal,” says Hangst, “perhaps more than symbolism.”
The sports photographer emphasizes that you are slowly developing a feeling for the preferences of the jury members: “All the more gratifying for me that the new ones also liked my picture so much.” There were ten points from Olympic luge champion Natalie Geisenberger, nine from Olympic long jump champion Malaika Mihambo and eight from soccer world champion Manuel Neuer, all three of whom had a say in the decision for the first time. You can see the votes of all sports legends, from Kati Witt to Dirk Nowitzki, in the graphic.
The chairman of the jury, Axel Sven Springer, was impressed by “how Matthias Hangst has managed it for the third time in a row. He has my absolute respect.” The jury awarded second place to Kai Pfaffenbach for “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, third place went to Alexander Hassenstein with “Set in the Sand”.
At 10,000 euros, the Sven Simon Prize is Germany’s most valuable sports photo prize and is awarded annually to commemorate Axel Springer Jr., the eldest son of the publisher Axel Springer. He was a professional photographer under the pseudonym Sven Simon and won many prestigious awards. The former editor-in-chief of WELT AM SONNTAG died in January 1980 at the age of 38. To commemorate his memory, WELT AM SONNTAG donated the Sven Simon Prize, which has been awarded to the sports photos of the year since 1999.