Instant-Classic Usain Bolt Photo Was a "Risk" That Almost Didn't Happen, Photographer Says

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The image will be entered for a Pulitzer Prize.

The picture of Usain Bolt smiling as he seemed to easily outpace his competition during the men's 100-meter semifinal race on Sunday night in Rio was a split-second decision by Getty Images photographer Cameron Spencer.

The 38-year-old from Sydney told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday that he has been inundated with congratulations after getting what is already being called one of the most iconic shots of the 2016 Olympic Games. 

Spencer says he is overwhelmed and very proud. 

"At the time, I knew it was cool, but I didn't know it would turn out to be as popular as it turned out to be," he tells THR.  

The image, which became an instant meme on social media, almost didn't get made.

Spencer, who is covering his fifth Olympic Games, explains his assignment was shooting field events on Sunday, but he made a quick decision to try and get a slow-motion shot of the Jamaican sprinter known as the world's fastest man. 

Spencer, a photographer for 14 years, says the "risk" to break from assignment when he ran across the field, ending up about 20 meters away from the track, was worth it. 

"I'm pretty over the moon it worked out the way it did," he says. "I think [Bolt's] personality really shines through. He's a showman, and he loves to entertain the crowd."

When Spencer checked his frame right after taking the picture, he knew he had a good image, but he didn't know how good until his phone started blowing up at the end of the night with friends and family congratulating him, "which is always nice to receive," he says. 

Among the "top three" photos Spencer has ever taken, the Bolt shot will be entered into competitions, including for a Pulitzer Prize, Spencer tells THR. "I mean, why not?" 

And while he has not directly talked to Bolt yet, Spencer says he has it on good authority that the runner is impressed with the shot. 

"We're going to try and get him a print."