Photography in its purest sense is considered an art form, capturing moments in time that illustrates to the reader the blood, sweat and tears involved when a sports star pushes their body to the limits.
At the elite level the simple fact is you win at all costs, and it is the photographer's job to relay this emotion to the page and screen.
But sometimes, in the very rare moments, an image will be taken that will have the most mature of minds in stitches.
Whether diving at the Olympic games, making that final push at the shot-put event or concentrating during a decisive drop shot, athletes around the world have an untimely habit of producing the ugliest facial expressions physically possible.
Unfortunately for them, these pieces of art are readily accessible and easy to discover for our own amusement. In the age of Twitter, memes, GIFs, JIFs, and YouTube, an ugly face is forever etched in the memory and difficult to shake.
Now let's not be mistaken – here at The Sportster we understand even the best and brightest of us can fall victim to ugly face.
NBA royalty and Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan had the unenviable condition of poking his tongue out when approaching the rim for the clutch play, so often it bordered on obsessive compulsive disorder.
For a man iconic with producing slam-dunks and lay-ups, its fair to say this category of images is contained in its own database.
Benefit of the doubt can be given for occupational hazards – a devastating punch in the ring, a soccer ball to the face or a weightlifter grimacing in pain when the bar just won’t get off the ground.
But we’ll let you be the judge.
Here they are – the Top 15 Athletes Who Make The Ugliest Faces When They Play
15 Jay Cutler
The quarterback of any NFL team is the face of the franchise, holding destiny in their own hands. For the Chicago Bears' 2010 campaign, one moment encapsulated the dizzy haze of a season ending in heartbreak. Picked 11th in the 2006 Draft, Jay Cutler was meant to be the savior of the fledgling club after a short spell with the Denver Broncos ended in 2008. This shot from a nail-biting game against the Pittsburgh Steelers portrayed a man at the end of a weeklong bucks party rather than an elite football player.
Cutler would sit out the NFC Championship game with Green Bay on the sidelines with injury, watching the Bears' Super Bowl dreams vanish like a big night on the town.
14 Blake Griffin
Fortunately for Jordan, cameras weren’t lurking around the board to snap his regular tongue pokes. For Clippers superstar Blake Griffin on the other hand, there’s no doubt the 2009 no.1 draft pick would like to have this ugly meme face over again. Striving to reach the rim leaping in the air, Griffin’s poster-boy good looks are blown away in an instant, mimicking a man on the verge of a mental breakdown. The skillful power forward’s stellar 2014-15 season confirmed Griffin as one of the game's most marketable personalities, so long as his agent finds the delete button on photos like these.
13 Alexander Ovechkin
Let's face facts – Alexander Ovechkin is never going to win a Bachelor of the Year award. From the 1980s scruffy haircut to the gaps in the teeth, the Russian hockey icon’s greatest attributes are limited around the ice rink. What makes the man they call “Ovi” so curious is the faces he pulls when going to battle for the mighty Washington Capitals. The above image might be a moment of agony or ecstasy, we really have no idea. With three World Championship gold medals in his back pocket won throughout an illustrious career, the 29-year-old won’t be too bothered he makes this list. Or maybe he will, frankly we’ll never know.
12 Jeff Monson
Sports images don’t usually come with a parental guidance warning, but in this case we’ll make an exception. While the world of MMA is not for the faint of heart, Jeff Monson’s approach to fighting can be summed up in one word – brutal. The 44-year-old from Minnesota happens to be an anti-war advocate outside the ring, spray-painting symbols of peace and “no poverty” on the Washington State Capitol in 2009. With three losses from his last three fights, Monson might consider social advocacy a healthier occupation than MMA.
11 Marcos Baghdatis
Turning professional in 2003, the local boy from Limassol, Cyprus burst onto the tennis scene when he reached The Australian Open Final in 2006. That run coincided with his highest ever ATP ranking of number 8 in the world. With only one single career title to his name, Baghdatis has often traded on his charm and humor to win over crowds, although he will point to a 2005 Cyprus Male Athlete of the Year Award to add to the trophy cabinet. The above image does the Cypriote no favors, presumably looking above as his ranking plummets.
10 Peter Waterfield
The name says it all. Olympic divers could easily fill the entire catalogue of ugly sports faces, but there is more joy to spread around the sporting landscape. British diver Peter Waterfield, pictured here at his home games in London 2012, won silver at Athens 2004 after taking his only gold in Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games. The 34-year-old from Southampton won’t enjoy the still shots from this memorable event; bursting with all the veins his shaved-down body can muster.
9 Mark Hominick
One look at Mark Hominick’s face (and head) would indicate he was unsuccessful in his latest UFC bout. Ultimate Fighting can be gorier than anything Game of Thrones can dish up, as Jose Aldo went to town on the Canadian. The hematoma popping out of Hominick’s head could be put down to an occupational hazard, but it is not the shape a head should be. This shot from UFC 129 clearly makes the cut for our top 15.
8 Luis Suarez
Without a doubt the most divisive man in the world’s biggest game. The man they call “King Luis” is not only a man found guilty of racial discrimination, but a serial biter of footballers, yes, that’s right, he bites opponents on the soccer pitch! Having transferred to Barcelona, the feisty Uruguayan street footballer appears to have cleaned up his act somewhat, but this picture taken during his Anfield days demonstrates exactly how many people saw him, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth for the victims he snacked on.
7 Qin Kai
A second diving entrant to the list, China’s Qin Kai grimacing expression looks as though he has been shot out of a cannon into outer space, holding on for dear life with every inch of the 3m fall. Pictured competing at his home FINA World Championships in Shanghai, Kai’s frightening appearance off the springboard is one of many, leaving us to ask whether the profession is worthwhile if you aim to make a living off endorsement deals. Frankly, it’s just not a good look.
6 Franck Ribery
It’s fair to say the Franck Ribery look has not caught on across Europe. The French playmaker is a complicated character, having been caught up in an underage prostitution scandal at a Paris nightclub in 2010 after converting to Islam in 2006, going by an adopted name Bilal Yusuf Mohammed. The explosive winger has been compared favorably to France’s greatest ever – Zinedine Zidane, taking out UEFA’s Best Player Award in 2013. But it is Ribery’s look that continues to bemuse many in the soccer world, sporting a scar down the right side of his face and a set of teeth that no one could possibly envy.
5 Evgeni Plushenko
Figure skating is considered by many as an art form, expressing beauty, poise and elegance. This image, taken during a practice session at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, shows the usually immaculate Russian skater at a vulnerable moment. The 32-year-old three-time World champion and seven-time European champion has won enough accolades over a career to be taken down a peg or two, and this is that time. Resembling a hedgehog being spun in a tumble-dryer, Plushenko knows how to look the part when the proper competition kicks into gear.
4 Kurt Roberts – Shot Put
Kurt Roberts has a classic American name, just not a classic look when he launches a shot put. The 27-year-old pictured at a 2012 London Olympic Games qualifier, pushes his body and face to the limits in the pursuit of excellence. The bearded giant from Ohio gets results with this look though, setting a personal best of 70 ft 61⁄4 at an event in 2014. Whether pulling a face like this helps you throw the discus further is unknown.
3 Albin Vidovic
Although Albin Vidovic suffered from cerebral paralisis as a child, he defied all odds to compete for his beloved Croatia on the international stage. The Paralympics contestant from Bjelovar is quite the sight when he gets into full swing, exurting every muscle into his body to get maximum distance on the discus. The 39-year-old’s profile is limited for an athlete in a sport that only gets exposure every four years, but his look raised a lot of eyebrows in the 2012 games, and we can see why!
2 Takuya Eizumi
Japanese MMA fighter Takuya Eizumi is known for one thing and one thing only – the creepiest face in the history of mixed martial arts. Take 10 seconds out of your day to Google Eizumi and this face will be plastered from left to right, top to bottom. In a meme-makers dream, Eizumi’s win over Yusei Shimokawa in 2014 at Pancrase 259 in Tokyo was not enough satisfaction. This face was the final insult to his opponent, creeping him and everyone else out in the process. Next time Eizumi wins an MMA encounter, we suggest you turn your television screens off if you want to enjoy a restful sleep!
1 Phil Jones
For a man playing for one of the biggest soccer clubs in the globe, Phil Jones appears as though the pressure to perform at the highest level will make his head literally explode. The youngster, who transferred from Blackburn, puts his head and feet in positions that soccer experts did not know was physically possible, putting his body and unusual face in the most dangerous of positions. It might be considered “the beautiful game”, but three entrants into the top 15 ugliest faces made in sports list should put soccer further down the totem pole.