By Ingrid Sapona
For the most part, my interest in the Olympic Games didn’t
go much deeper than reading the headlines and hearing the “spoiler alert”
summaries on the nightly news. That said, I wouldn’t be human if a few
Olympic-related items didn’t make me reflect on things that seem fitting for a
column. And, sitting down to write this, I realize that there’s a common theme connecting
The first was something a commentator said during the
opening ceremonies as the athletes paraded in. He said, “Most of the athletes
participating in the games will go home with no medal.” I know, I know – given
the total number of athletes and the total number of medals, that’s an obvious
statement. But still, I have to think that every athlete participating believed
he or she would beat the odds – after all, they were the very best their
countries had to offer. I guess the comment made me realize that, though the
Olympics showcase guts and glory, it’s also tinged with a fair bit of disappointment.
The second item was about Paula Findlay, a 23-year-old
Canadian triathlete who is a rising star in the sport. She had won five of the
first six races she entered in the world championship series and was expected
to end up on the podium. Well, to say she had a bad day would be an understatement.
She finished 52nd – dead last.
At the end of the race the poor woman was in tears. Who
wouldn’t be? But, her sorrow wasn’t just from the personal disappointment she felt.
A large part of it was her embarrassment and feeling that she had let Canada
down. At the end of the race, a sobbing Findlay was quoted as saying
, “I wish I
could have made them more proud. I just want to apologize. I feel terrible. I’m
really sorry to everybody, to Canada. I had big hopes for myself and everyone
had big hopes for me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fulfill them.”
My first reaction to the news of Findlay’s apology was that
she doesn’t owe us one. True, some of our tax dollars went to support her
training – and had she won, a few more of our tax dollars would have gone into
her pocket as a bonus. But, as I see it, what the country gets in exchange for
our support of Olympic athletes is not a medal in a particular event – it’s the
chance to help these individuals in their personal pursuit of excellence. But, as
young Paula Findlay found out, the personal price for that support can feel
Now, you may think that what these items have in common is
the notion of disappointment. Well, that’s certainly one connection. But the
common denominator I see in these two things is the idea of putting yourself
out there. Of being willing to put yourself in a position where disappointment
is a very likely outcome – given the talent of those that you’re competing with
– and doing so with the whole world watching.
I guess I tend to ignore the Olympics because there’s so
much about it that I can’t relate to. I can’t relate to the physical talent of
the athletes, nor can I fathom the gruelling training they put themselves through
for years on end. Consequently, though I’m moved when I watch the medal
ceremonies, my emotions are mainly a reaction to the happiness I see on their
faces, not to their actual physical achievements.
But, when I watched the athletes party during the closing
ceremonies and I thought about the fact that most of them are going home
without medals, I realized that their willingness to give their all, even in
the face of likely disappointment, is something we can all learn from. Indeed, I
think most of them would agree that you’re only a loser if you don’t try.
© 2012 Ingrid Sapona