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2022 Sports, Large Newsroom winner

Future of the summer games

About the Project

The Olympics introduced a slate of new events aimed at luring in a younger audience. To engage those fans and explain the nuances and thrills of the added adventure sports, The Washington Post went deep into our digital toolbox, giving users a unique experience that transcended words, photographs or narrative video.

We used augmented reality to demonstrate what an Olympic climber scaling a 50-foot wall in 10 seconds looks like. A team from The Post’s Lede Lab flew to Colorado and met with our subject, Brooke Raboutou, taking video and photos that were then used to create 3D images. The resulting AR experience brought the story to life, allowing users to see Raboutou sprint up a scalable wall from the comfort of their home or office. The AR was accessible on mobile platforms and also by scanning a QR code embedded in both print and desktop versions of the story.

While skateboarding is a familiar activity to many, the competitive side of the sport is fast-moving and filled with subtleties, each trick presenting a dizzying challenge to the naked eye. The Washington Post sent a team to California to meet with the world’s top-ranked skater, Heimana Reynolds, renting out a skate park and bringing along a rig set up with 36 GoPro cameras. The resulting “bullet-time” video experience allowed the user to move 180 degrees around Reynolds as he performs his tricks. With the young skater seemingly suspended in air, the user can appreciate the hand and feet placements and the difficulties – and dangers – posed by competitive skateboarding. The additional video, graphics and annotation provides a high-level introduction to what proved to be one of the most exciting sports in Tokyo.

Surfing competitions typically take place too far from shore to fully see and appreciate the athleticism and artistry on display. The Washington Post team met our subject, Caroline Marks, in California and used a long lens to film her training session. The high-definition video allowed us to slow down her rides and create a step-by-step, annotated experience that revealed the subtle body movements required to perform the world’s most difficult tricks.

The ambitious design tied together the visuals and words, mimicking the movements of each sport and creating a unique experience on both mobile and desktop. Drone video and brief user-friendly question-and-answer breakouts helped guide the user and connect the assorted elements. The entire project was more than 18 months in the making, as the Post team, comprised of journalists across the newsroom, had to navigate scheduling conflicts and curveballs presented by Covid-19.