UK photographers sweep the board at AIPS Sport Media Awards in Seoul

Unprecedented UK success at fifth edition of Awards, celebrating industry excellence worldwide; Oli Scarff, John Walton and Will Palmer win photography categories; repeat Documentary win for Louis Myles; Andy Couldridge, Jonathan Harding, Kayley Thomas and Dave Tryhorn also on podiums, plus various special mentions for British entrants…

By Jon Holmes

Andy Couldridge, Will Palmer, John Walton and Oli Scarff with their AIPS Sport Media Awards

The best of British sports photography has been acclaimed on the global stage, with a hat-trick of wins at the AIPS Sport Media Awards.

The fifth edition of the annual ceremony was held on Tuesday in Seoul, where John Walton, Oli Scarff and Will Palmer were in attendance to collect their trophies.

PA Media’s Walton claimed the Photography Sport Action category with his shot titled ‘Flying into the crowd’ showing the freak Commonwealth Games collision involving Matt Walls that occurred at the Lee Valley Velodrome in July 2022.

England’s Matt Walls goes over the barrier and into the crowd in the Commonwealth Games men’s scratch race at Lee Valley VeloPark (John Walton for PA Media)

Andy Couldridge (Action Images / Reuters) was alongside Walton in silver-medal position for his image of Kubrat Pulev being punched by Derek Chisora during their heavyweight bout at London’s O2 Arena, also in July last year (Q&A with Andy below).

Both had been shortlisted in the Picture category at the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards earlier in the year, when Scarff won the News Picture category for his tension-filled shot of unconscious US artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez being assisted by coach Andrea Fuentes at the bottom of the pool during the FINA World Championships in Budapest.

That same image helped AFP snapper Scarff secure the Photography Portfolio award at the AIPS gala.

Coach Andrea Fuentes swims to recover USA’s Anita Alvarez in the women’s solo free artistic swimming finals at the World Championships in Budapest (Oli Scarff for AFP)
Oli Scarff interviewed by Diacounda Sene for AIPS

Completing a British clean sweep in Photography was freelancer Palmer – the SJA’s Young Photographer of the Year – who took first place in the Young Reporters section.

Like Walton, Palmer was also in position at Lee Valley for qualifying in the men’s 15km scratch race at Birmingham 2022 and captured his own version for SWpix of the heart-stopping, chaotic moment that saw rider Walls go ‘over the top’.

“It’s a huge honour to have my image recognised on such a big international stage and I’m proud to have some of my work shared alongside so many inspiring sports journalists,” Palmer told the SJA website from Seoul.

“The crash was extraordinary and unique – there’s never been an incident like it in the UK, nor at such a high level of competition as the Commonwealth Games. To be one of the few who caught it is a proud moment.”

It’s the first time that photography entrants from the UK have ever been outright winners in these AIPS Sport Media Award categories. Clive Mason and Clive Brunskill have both been included in top-threes in recent years.

AIPS member Palmer added: “This trip gave me a greater insight into the organisation’s involvement in sport globally and the platform they create to help create a better working environment with more opportunities, particularly for young sports journalists such as myself.

“Plus I’ve got to see the incredible city that is Seoul in the meantime!”

Some snaps from the Palmer portfolio in the Korean capital…

Will hopes his achievements can inspire others into the industry and help to open more doors as his own career progresses.

“As a freelancer with no family or educational background in photography, I feel very lucky to have picked up the AIPS Young Reporters award in the same year as the SJA Young Photographers award.

“None of this would have been possible without the opportunity to shoot at the Commonwealth Games for SWpix.

“In the future, I’m hoping these awards will help me continue to work across a range of sports and help provide opportunities for me to learn from other more experienced photographers in the industry.”

Meanwhile, film-maker Louis Myles repeated his success from two years ago by claiming the Video Documentary award.

At the 2021 ceremony celebrating the best of 2020, Myles won for ‘Stop the Tour’ which looked at sport’s role in defeating apartheid, shown on BT Sport.

This time round, it was his film for FIFA+ titled ‘Croatia: Defining a Nation’ that secured top honours. The UK’s Dave Tryhorn took bronze for ‘The Figo Affair: The Transfer that Changed Football’, available to watch on Netflix.

Louis Myles interviewed by Diacounda Sene for AIPS

There was also a bronze in Audio for the BBC Radio Wales team of Kayley Thomas, Jenny Johnson, Lorraine Walsh and Cathy Robinson for ‘Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story’. Thomas was among the UK contingent in Seoul on the night.

In Writing Best Column, London-based SJA member Marcela Mora y Araujo – representing Argentina – took silver for ‘Thrown into the World Cup: The challenge of telling things as they are and at the same time believing in magic’ for El Diario.

Winners in the eight main categories at the AIPS Sport Media Awards receive US $8,000 in prize money, with $3,000 for runners-up and $2,000 for third-place finishes. AIPS scholarships at international events are the top prize for the Young Reporters.

Watch a replay of the AIPS Sport Media Awards ceremony (starts 27:12)

Another podium placing went to the Racing Post’s Jonathan Harding, who was second in Young Reporters Writing for his article ‘I’ll die with cancer and can’t change it but I can change these people’s lives’ for which he also received a Special Commendation.

That was one of 25 Special Mentions made by AIPS Awards judges in various aspects of sports media work. From the UK, Steve Menary (Josimar) received his for Investigative Work; Jeremy Wilson (Telegraph) for Contributing to the Development of Women’s Sport; David Garrido (Sky Sports) for Climate Change and Sustainable Sport; and Nick Hope (Women’s Sport Alliance) as one of 10 journalists recognised for coverage on the Special Topic of the Year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Other UK entrants to be placed in the Top 10 shortlists for their categories were:

  • Photography Sport Action: Martin Rickett (PA Media), 5th
  • Video Athlete Profile: Abby Newbery (BBC), 10th
  • Video Short Feature: Don Riddell (CNN), 7th; Nick Hope (FINA YouTube), 10th
  • Writing Best Colour Piece: Matt Rendell (BBC), 4th; Riath Al-Samarrai (Daily Mail), 5th; Chris Howells (BBC Sport), 8th
  • Writing Best Column: Emma Smith (, now BBC Sport), 7th; Michael Aylwin (The Guardian), 9th; Izzy Westbury (Telegraph), 10th=
  • Young Reporters Writing: Sana Haq (CNN), 4th

Previous UK winners at the AIPS Sport Media Awards include Kate Rowan (Telegraph), Dina Asher-Smith (Telegraph column) and Suzy Wrack (The Guardian).

‘This is definitely a career highlight’

We caught up with Action Images / Reuters staff photographer Andy Couldridge after he picked up his runner-up award in Seoul…

Congratulations Andy! What does it mean to you to be recognised for your hard work on the global stage?

It’s fantastic and a huge honour to be recognised for such a prestigious award.

AIPS represent a huge amount of photographers and journalists in a lot of countries, making sure that the interests of everyone is high on the agenda.

Tell us what you’re most proud of from the entry that got you to Seoul.

I’m lucky enough to photograph some great events, and moments in boxing like Chisora’s punch on Pulev happen a lot during a fight, but capturing them is not so easy sometimes.

I was very lucky that I wasn’t blocked by a referee and I managed to time the moment perfectly to capture all the movement in the face. It’s an honour to have it recognised in any awards.

Derek Chisora punches Kubrat Pulev at London’s O2 Arena (Andy Couldridge for Action Images / Reuters)

After this success, what are your future ambitions in the industry?

This is definitely a career highlight, one I had hoped would come for what’s been a long career. In the almost 30 years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve been lucky enough to be nominated and won the odd award, but nothing on this scale.

It makes it more special as it’s for a sport I love shooting. I don’t have any specific plans for the future – I’m lucky that, in Reuters, I work for a great organisation that allows me to shoot great events.

Hopefully I can continue shooting those events and just enjoying my work.

Our thanks to Andy for the Q&A.

Further reading

‘Every year, it’s getting better and better’: AIPS Awards jurors hail outstanding efforts of sports journalists

World Taekwondo demonstration team shines again at AIPS Sport Media Awards (Dan Palmer, Inside the Games)

AIPS Sport Media Awards news index