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Monday, February 10, 2014

Success and Failure Olympian Style

My idea of a quad is to become completely engrossed in the Olympics every four years. Now that I have a DVR, I can pretty much watch every minute of televised action. I find myself sitting in front of the TV at midnight watching the luge. Hello, don’t they all pretty much look alike rocketing down an ice slide at 80 miles per hour?

What about that skateboarding? Those folks are crazy. They risk  life and limb for a shot at the gold. And one little mess-up—a bad landing after spinning, flipping, performing death-defying antics in the air—and  all is for nothing. What about that girl that broke her helmet? She looked like she was out cold, but about the time help arrived, she was back on her feet snowboarding to the finish line.  Of course, she had failed to get a medal or a decent score, but what a picture of success to see someone overcome that type of fall. What about the athletes who are broken and pinned back together, performing with broken ribs, recovering from surgery, or performing with a shot of Novocain to dull the pain?

Watching the Olympics really has made me think about the perception of success and failure. One person’s bronze medal means failure while signifying another person’s success. Of course, I always want to see the United States snag the gold, but, hey, when you compete against the best athletes in the world, you can’t always expect to be top dog.

Contests are won and lost by one-hundredths of a second. It seems strange for commentators to talk about how a lap in speed skating is slow if it is over 30 seconds. Olga Graf, from Russia, was spurred on by the home-country crowd and was pleased as punch to win a bronze medal.

On the other hand, a bronze medal had the USA’s mogul star Hannah Kearney in tears. She expected gold, not bronze. She was so emotional she couldn’t finish the interview, but turned her head as the tears flowed. Everyone wants gold, even silver just doesn’t seem good enough. You almost have to admire someone who so firmly believes he or she is so good that it is unfair that another person in the world is a few nanoseconds faster or can jump a tad higher, or was just plain having a good day to offset your bad one.

Bode Miller missed the podium in the men’s downhill, but in a way considered his run a success. He met his main objective: “Not kill myself was the primary (objective).”

My favorite event is figure skating, and we had a treat this year with the new team event. The good news was that we had some excellent skaters that dug us out of the hole made by the first two skaters. Davis  and White along with Ashley Wagner  put the USA in the top five teams to vie for medals. The bad news was that with the scoring system, we could never get higher than bronze. The Ashley Wagner frown that has gone viral on the Internet is not because of the bronze, but because of a much lower score than she expected.

For some who have no hopes of winning, the Olympic experience is reward enough. Take the Cool Running Jamaican bobsled team. A simple thing like losing their luggage, and equipment, on the trip over didn’t deter them from having a good time. They just smile and everyone loves them. They are successes without a medal of any color.

It’s no wonder with the pressure to perform nerves can overcome athletes chosen to represent their country in the Olympics. We all know that confidence trumps nerves every time. It isn’t always the best of the best that turn in the outstanding performance. It may be the person with no expectations, no pressure.

We can learn a lesson from the Olympians: If you “fail” to be the best, it is still a giant leap above those who let fear of failure take them out of the competition.
  
copyright © Feb 2014 by L.S. Fisher


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