Tom Jenkins’ best sports photos of 2015

The Guardian and Observer sport photographer Tom Jenkins selects his best images from 2015 and recalls in detail how each one was created

The cyclists keep going round at the London Six Day event 21 October
35mm lens 1/800 f4 ISO 3200

Six-day cycling had returned to London, the first time the event, which is so popular on the continent, had appeared in Britain for 35 years. It was a real marathon for the riders as they competed in various events over each consecutive night.

Wembleys tribute to France after the Paris terror attacks – 17 November
24mm lens 1/640 f4 ISO 3200


Wembley turns red, white and blue in sympathy and solidarity with France after the Paris terrorist attacks. After photographing English fans attempting to sing the French national anthem I positioned myself on the halfway line to see the players gather round the centre-circle for the minutes silence. It was one of those times when the shutter of my camera seemed louder than normal. I took a few frames then kept silent myself.

The All Blacks victory haka with the Rugby World Cup trophy 31 October
23mm lens 1/800 f4 ISO 4000


Before the Rugby World Cup final started I had asked some friends from New Zealand whether the All Blacks had ever performed a victory haka? I had seen Kiwi teams do this when they had won sevens tournaments and also the women had done one when they won their World Cup. But no one had seen the full All Blacks do one. I felt it could make a nice frame if it actually happened so I was on the look-out after the game. Sure enough towards the end of the lap of honour the trophy was placed on the grass by Richie McCaw and I sprinted on to the pitch to get a good low angle.

Charlie Line with the Rugby World Cup winners medal given to him by Sonny Bill Williams 31 October
16mm lens 1/640 f4 ISO 4000


I was following the victorious All Blacks round the Twickenham pitch on what seemed like a straightforward lap of honour after their World Cup final win against Australia, when I spotted a boy run onto the pitch in an attempt to meet Sonny Bill Williams. A security guard wrestled the youngster to the ground but the player was concerned for him and led him back to the safety of the crowd. Then to the amazement of all around Williams gave the teenager his winners medal. It was a great little story and just shows you can never take anything for granted.

New Zealand leave the pitch after their Rugby World Cup semi-victory over South Africa at Twickenham 24 October
85mm lens 1/1000 f3.5 ISO 4000


The All Blacks troop off through the lashing rain after their victory over the Springboks. I love the look of determination on their faces as they realise they still havent completed their job with one more game to go.

Sprinting to the try-line at the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge 13 October
170mm lens 1/15 f9 ISO 200


The World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge was held in mid-October just before the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. I had covered Murderball during the Paralympics and had loved the combination of skill and often ferocious action. In this image I used a slow shutter-speed to catch how quickly Cameron Leslie, the star of the Wheelblacks New Zealand team, was moving as he raced towards the try-line.

England v Australia at the Rugby World Cup 3 October
400mm lens 1/1250 f4 ISO 3200


England were being totally outplayed by the Aussies and heading for an inglorious exit from their home tournament. Frustration showed as Owen Farrell shoulder-barged Matt Giteau and was shown a yellow card while Sam Burgess tried to tackle Michael Hooper round the neck.

Japan v South Africa at the Rugby World Cup 19 September
500mm lens 1/1250 f4.5 ISO 2500


I, like everyone else, was expecting an easy Springbok victory. The ground at Brighton was very cramped for us and as Japan had many photographers there I was quite happy before the game to plump for a position shooting South Africa attacking for both halves. I just couldnt believe it, watching the winning Japan try from the other end of the pitch. Luckily getting this picture helped soothe the disappointment of not being in the right place at the end.

Wayne Rooney scores his record-breaking goal v Switzerland 8 September
24mm lens 1/1000 f4.5 ISO 3200


Rooney celebrates his record-breaking England goal 8 September
200mm lens 1/1000 f4 ISO 3200


Wayne Rooney scores the penalty that gave him the record as Englands leading goalscorer. I will never forget that night in September. I came home buzzing after getting Rooneys record goal from two different angles (remote camera low down behind the goal and handheld camera with me on the other side of the net). My joy soon turned to despair as I found out the brilliant photographer and my great friend, Mike King, had died.

England play around with the Ashes urn at The Oval 23 August
28mm lens 1/1250 f4 ISO 400


On their lap of honour after receiving the Ashes, the England team decided to stop and perform a Champions League-like celebration. They all bent down and waved their hands at the famous little urn then in unison with their captain, Alastair Cook, lifted their arms to the sky.

Rafael Nadal sweating buckets at Wimbledon 30 June
700mm lens 1/1250 f5.6 ISO 400


Rafael Nadal was sweating profusely while struggling during his first-round match on Court One at Wimbledon. It was the hottest day of the year and I had seen at the change of ends how the sweat had dripped off him while reaching down to pick up a drink by his chair. By putting a converter on to my lens I could get in even closer, isolating the drops cascading from his face.

Novak Djokovic and a little bird on Centre Court 29 June
102mm lens 1/2000 f4.5 ISO 400


Novak Djokovic tries to encourage a small bird to run up on to his racket midway through his first match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. I had noticed this bird just before the match started as it had obviously found something to eat in the pristine turf. For me it was a matter of patience, hoping eventually that little Tweetie Pie and the great champion would eventually make it into one frame together.

Sebastien Buemi wins the first Formula E race in Battersea Park 27 June
500mm lens 1/2000 f4.5 ISO 1000


Sebastien Buemi rockets through the dappled sunshine in Battersea Park as he wins the first Formula E race consisting of fully electric cars to be held in Britain. There was a beautiful, small patch of light caused by the late afternoon sunlight bursting through some trees so it was just a matter of getting the exposure right and the focus spot on.

Ladies Day at Royal Ascot 18 June
500mm lens 1/800 f5.6 ISO 400


Enjoying a big fat cigar in the Royal Enclosure on Ladies Day at Royal Ascot. I always love going to the Royal meeting at the course as it provides many opportunities both on and off the track.

Santi Cazorla takes a selfie after the FA Cup final 30 May
24mm lens 1/1250 f3.5 ISO 1600


Arsenal had completed a straightforward 4-0 victory over Aston Villa to win the FA Cup for the second time in a row. Amidst the celebrations, Santi Cazorla decided to pick up my camera that was stationed just behind one goal and proceed to take selfies with his team-mates. Unfortunately the cameras focal distance had been fixed by me to around two metres, thus rendering all Santis snaps out of focus.

Chelsea celebrate winning the Premier League 24 May
115mm lens 1/1250 f4.5 ISO 1600


Chelsea celebrate winning the Premier League in May with Didier Drogba acting as cheerleader after the trophy presentation. At the time this picture seemed quite run-of-the-mill to me. Now it seems incredible given the turn around in fortunes at Stamford Bridge. And there on the right of frame is the laughing José Mourinho with the cheering doctor, Eva Carneiro, by his side.

Steven Gerrards final match at Anfield 16 May
500mm lens 1/3200 f5.6 ISO 400


Steven Gerrard kisses one of his daughters before playing his final match at Anfield for Liverpool. I knew there could be good pictures but exactly when and where it was hard to tell. I thought the best images might be shot after the game but Gerrard went around the pitch surrounded by TV cameras and stewards, making it very hard to see him clearly.

Anthony Joshua in a Brentwood gym 11 May
50mm lens 1/2500 f1.4 ISO 400


Anthony Joshuas star continued to rise throughout 2015 and Im convinced he will be a heavyweight champion in the not too distant future. When I went to take his portrait in May he couldnt have been nicer and unusually for a top sportsman gave me plenty of time. The sun was shining into the front of the training room so I decided to lay some reflectors on the floor to bounce some light up into his face. Then I used an aperture on my lens that gave me a tiny depth of field to concentrate all the focus purely on his staring eyes.

Keighley Cougars mourn team-mate Danny Jones 10 May
16mm lens 1/1000 f6.3 ISO 640


Keighley Cougars remember Danny Jones. The Yorkshire rugby league team had been rocked by the death of their star player who had collapsed during a game in London the previous weekend. The players placed a wreath shaped in the number six of Joness jersey on the centre-circle and lined up around it for a minutes silence. An extremely moving moment.

Mathias Pogba, brother of Paul, Crawley Town FC 29 April
40mm lens 1/200 f11 ISO 100


Mathias Pogba, whose brother Paul was about to play for Juventus in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final, pictured at the Stadium in Crawley. I really needed to show a down to earth, lower-league backdrop for this portrait. The atmosphere is helped by the colourful sky that fortunately turned stormy just as the shoot started.

A tearful Tony McCoy after his final race 25 April
24mm lens 1/1600 f5.6 ISO 500


I didnt think I would ever see this sight the great AP McCoy wiping away a tear after a race. Without doubt one of the toughest sportsmen I have known, he couldnt keep the emotions back as he paraded in front of packed stands at Sandown Park after his final race. He has a guiding and comforting hand on the leg from his faithful friend and agent Dave Roberts.

Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves Super League match 16 April
500mm lens 1/800 f4 ISO 4000

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