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.