📸 Through The Lens | Nicolai Ceban

Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas Athletics staff photographer Jeff Jacobsen shares his memories of what he saw “Through the Lens” from his 23-year career with the Jayhawks.

Watching Nicolai Ceban compete for KU in the discus from 2015-18 could be mesmerizing. Whirling through a ring only 8-ft 2 ½ in wide, the 6-3 Ceban stood out. His large, well-defined muscles made him different from most throwers. Those giant men were undoubtedly strong and skilled, but their big muscles were padded with many a hearty meal.

Ceban competed in four NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The native of Camenca, Moldova, finished as high as 13th. Other KU discus greats led by four-time Olympic champion Al Oerter, stand above the always-friendly and well-liked Ceban on the all-time charts. However, none ever looked as good as he sped around the circle with the grace of a male ballet dancer.

I have placed a remotely-triggered camera with a wide-angle lens inside the netted confines used for the discus and hammer throws more often than I can remember. Out of all the photographs of high school throwers to Olympic champions, male or female, this photograph remains my favorite from the discus competition.

At the 2017 NCAA Championships, Ceban’s first move, with his foot barely inside the circle and his right leg whipping in an arc around the ring, showcased his style. His calf muscle popped out in a way that the ancient Greeks depicted in their paintings and alabaster statues of their athletic legends.

Dave Black is one of the country’s most famed sports photographers. His photos from countless Olympic Games are legendary. He is noted for his meticulous planning leading to truly theatrical and historical images. His website https://daveblackphotography.com/ is a must-see. It is my honor to have worked with Dave at any number of sports photography workshops and to be his friend.

Black called my photograph of Ceban, “One of the most graceful and elegant discus throwing pictures I’ve ever seen.”

Those words honor me. Yet, outside of placing the camera correctly, with proper focus and triggering the camera at that particular moment, it is essential to give credit where credit is due. Without Ceban’s “grace and elegance,” this would just be another photo of many taken over so many years.

Happily, I give all the credit to you, with my thanks, Nicolai.