Competition’s Ups and Downs

I believe in competition. I believe that competition ultimately benefits the competitors and society as a whole.

No, I am not running for political office in November (though if I were, I would hope I could count on your support). The competition I am referring to now is the Olympics. I only know of a handful of the athletes representing America. While I hope the American team does great, I am only mildly interested in watching.

Last night was the first of the Olympic competition that I have watched. The event I saw was women’s gymnastics. A little background if I may. My wife loves gymnastics. Her first Olympic experience – viewing that is – was watching Nadia Comaneci. She was enthralled and still talks of watching Nadia. Anyway, my wife knows the sport, the athletes, and even understands the scoring system. So, yesterday while we were watching, I was badgering her with questions, so I could catch up on the who, why, and how.

As I was watching these world class athletes, I was struck by some things. Firstly, they are so young and look like they have been pulled from their SAT prep classes. Secondly, their body shapes are odd. These mighty mites are generally short with the necks of offensive lineman and horse-like thighs. Of course, this comes from hours of training in the gym. These young girls always seem to be the darlings of the Summer Olympics from Retton, to Strug, to Miller, to Dawes, etc.

This year’s little darling was already crowned before the Olympics began. I think I was the only person in America who had never heard of Jordyn Wieber. The 17-year-old, 5’2’, 104-pound gymnastics queen was to be crowned in London as a matter of course. Well, she lost. She failed to qualify for the individual all-around finals. And she was a mess.

This sad little girl crying was one of the first things I saw of the 2012 Olympic Games. She has probably sacrificed her childhood all in the hopes of being an Olympic Champion, and dreamed of this moment through hour upon hour of practice time. She has basked in the media attention and felt proud of being the face of the American team. Now her team could win the gold medal and she can win the gold medal for some individual events, but she will not be the all-around champion.

Of course, the cameras were there to document every moment of Wieber’s disappointment and her teammates’ ascension. I recognize this is news, and the viewing public wants to hear from Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, her teammates who made it to the all-around finals. But Wieber was just a couple of feet behind where the victors were being interviewed. She was barely holding in what seemed like a waterfall. I wish they did not make her wait there for an interview, although she seemed fairly composed when she finally talked. Yes, she is the 2011 world champion and veteran leader of the team, but at that moment, she was just an incredibly sad and disappointed kid.

Yes, I do believe in competiton. Competition means someone loses, and that can be sad. Well, you can now count me as Jordyn Wieber fan. I hope that kid kicks butt throughout the rest of the Olympics.

21 thoughts on “Competition’s Ups and Downs

  1. The agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory. Unfortunately, each exists because of the other. Poor girl. Poor mother of the girl. The good thing about these athletes is they don’t seem to let failure get them down for too long.

  2. Good post. I agree, competition is healthy. I don’t watch the Olympics (I don’t find them that interesting), but that’s sad for that girl. Like you said, she is after all “just an incredibly sad and disappointed kid.” I hope she kicks butt for the rest of the Olympics, too.

  3. Here in Australia, our athletes are worshiped as heroes. Wrongly or rightly, we take our sport very seriously.

    We have recently had a couple of athletes express their emotions at not doing as well as they had hoped at the Olympics.

    Sadly, they have been absolutely smashed in the media and on Twitter for doing so. Funnily enough, those who are the ones who have awarded them the gold medal before they’ve even done anything. Talk about pressure.

    Some say they need to learn how to lose, that their reactions are un-Australian, they are carrying on like spoiled little brats.

    I say, we need to remember that we are talking about people who have dedicated their lives to their sport. They have truly followed their dreams.

    These people aren’t robots. They are human beings. No sport psychologist or media training can prepare them for the reaction they will have whether they win or lose.

    Let them process the emotions they are experiencing before shoving a camera and microphone in their faces allowing the whole world to see.

    • Thanks for sharing with me about how the Olympics and the athletes are percieved in Australia.
      You and I are on the same page. The athletes are people too not programmed droids. It’s not fair to expect them to be devoid of emotion.

  4. Hi,
    I had never heard of Jordyn too. I watched the opening on Friday night and as always was awed at how wonderful the ceremony was. The United Kingdom did an excellent job in presenting every facet of their society. I especially loved the fact that they included many young people and was almost to tears as I saw those seven young people take the torches and move towards lighting the flame. It was beautiful.
    I feel sorry for Jordyn. That was some setback and I know how she feels. But again, it is setbacks like these that pull us upward. Usually, if we persevere through them, such setbacks are the bell opening the door for much better times and for achievement. So, I hope Jordyn rises above the pain that she is feeling and show everyone, what they thought was her end, is just her beginning of being great.

    • Hopefully, the can ultimately take a postiive perspective as well. However, remember she is 17 and this is the culmination of what she has worked for. To see that not happen would be hard for anyone, but it is especially so for someone who does not have the wisdom that comes with age and experience.

  5. I’m a very competitive person, but I don’t have the patience for the kind of practice and concentration and dedication it takes to excel at sports. I am so proud of those who have that stamina. Especially children. But I can’t imagine the sheer disappointment when all of your efforts do not pay off as you expected. Its hard lesson to learn at so young of an age.

  6. Competition is definately a good thing but I do feel for the really young ones when they have to deal with defeat. I’m thoroughly enjoying the olympics, should have gotten some tickets really as it is only around the corner really.

  7. I felt bad for Jordyn. I used to live near her hometown and first became aware of her in the media when she was 12. They had her going to the Olympics even back then. I know her aunt as we went to high school together. Very often these young gymnasts don’t make it to another Olympics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *