Real Olympic Test: Is it the doing or the winning?

Success is a journey not a destination.  Warm fuzzy cliche but is it true?  I wonder what insight the Olympic contenders who leave Beijing empty handed would share with us? 

During the opening ceremonies somebody mentioned that the majority of the athletes who show up at the Olympics don’t have a statistical chance to win a medal.  I suppose that’s why the Olympic credo says something like “The most important thing is not winning but taking part.” Considering all the effort and commitment that they’ve given to represent their country, that must take real courage to go and compete knowing you don’t have a chance of winning.    This is why I love the Olympics.  Real life people.  Real life challenges.  Real life courage.   They are proof that there can be victory in simply going through the process and keeping your head up. 

At the opposite extreme are those who have the chance to win and come up 1/100th of a second short like the Dara Torres did today in the 50m freestyle.  We’ve seen it several times already.  When Michael Phelps won the 100m Butterfly, I gotta tell you. . . I couldn’t see the win.  It was so close!  Cavic, the guy who got Silver, also lost by .01 second.   Watching the tape, it’s hard to call which is why they leave it up to the electronic senors.  The clip of Michael’s response to winning is pretty memorable.  I went back to look at the video because I wanted to know what the look was on Cavic’s face.  There’s a brief shot of him looking stunned in the direction of Phelps.  I suppose that says a lot right there.  I mean he did ‘just about’ as good as Phelps did.  But ‘just about as good’ is not good enough sometimes.

I’d bet he didn’t say:  “I did my best. I succeeded because I finished the race.  It’s an honor just to be here.”    I wonder if he feels like success was in the journey?  I suspect that silver stings for someone who was that close to gold. 

I imagine he was feeling the Vince Lombardi quote “there is no room for second place.  There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place.”  This is the face of competition I’m most used to seeing in American sport.   You’ve heard it before . . . winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing.

But I like what Dara Torres said of her 2nd place finish.  She told an interviewer, “I did perfect for me.  I couldn’t have done anything more.”  There’s got to be a measure of comfort in that. 

But what about those who could’ve been a contender (said with a really bad Marlon Brando impersonation) and just blow it?  That’s the hardest for me to watch.   These are the ones who don’t stick the landing and step out of bounds or get disqualified because of a false start.  They have their shot and they just choke.   Tough stuff to come back from but the spectacular part to me is many of them do!  Many of them just get back out there and try again in the next event or heat or rotation. 

I suppose what I find in these stories is that there’s a big difference in winning and success.  Success is the journey the cliche speaks of.  Winning comes at the end an event BUT success happens all the way through the process.  Success includes winning and losing and failing.  Sometimes success is found just minutes after coming up short,  1 yard after you really want to quit or 1/100th second after the winner touches the wall.

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One Response to Real Olympic Test: Is it the doing or the winning?

  1. tigerelly says:

    Great post and great quote from Dara Torres. She did awesome!!

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