London 2012 Olympics: Here’s to the losers

Posted on August 10, 2012

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Well, maybe not the losers but over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself strangely drawn to the performances and post-event reactions of those who almost made it.

Sometimes that means not making a final (Idowu-style), just missing a medal or even getting a silver when the whole world, including that athlete, expected gold. It often involves small, heart-breaking margins.

The interviews with winners are predictable. There’s the thanks, the smiles, the it-literally-hasn’t-sunk-in-yet-ness. Some stars, with the weight of expectations on their shoulders, talk about relief.

There’s a lot of commonality. And also a lot of stuff with them I love too, to be honest.

But the commonality among those who don’t win is even more moving to me.

Sure, there’s the tears, the anger, the just wanting to be swallowed up by the ground (or water). Sometimes it’s just the physical exhaustion that doesn’t seem to come with winning. Think of Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter in the men’s lightweight double sculls, missing out on gold and getting Steve Redgrave’s metaphorical and literal support as they can barely walk and talk post-race.

The worst thing that we hear? Possibly: “I’ve let everyone down.”

The interviewers normally do a pretty good job of trying to convince otherwise but there’s no consoling.

But even if competitors’ support team, family, fans and others haven’t been let down, we are dealing with sports men and women who have been winners time and time again. That’s how they get to an elite level. Being happy with making a final, getting a medal, even setting a personal best and doing those things – they aren’t good enough.

Sport and entertainment focus on winners. But the real human stories, the real commonality with most of the rest of us, is with those who don’t win, who aren’t the best in the world at something.

Here’s to them, the character they show in defeat and what they share with the rest of us.

*Image Head in Hands  by Alex E. Proimos used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC by 2.5).

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

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Posted in: Sport