Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Hard Bigotry of High Expectations

More than anything else, I think, this blog is opposed to the idea that anything short of a gold medal is a failure on the athlete's part. Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno writes the usual Canadian whinge about high medal expectations falling short -- written only four days into the Olympics! -- that includes this bit of profound offensiveness about Canadian speed skater Cindy Klassen:
For Klassen, on the weekend, there was bronze in the 3,000 metres, which is hardly failure. But it's hardly the top of the podium either, for an athlete who has become rather accustomed to stepping up there on the World Cup circuit and who had never previously exhibited any tendency toward nerves or excitability or poor judgment in a race.

The Winnipeg native can atone -- a word and concept cited far too frequently, it seems, when the subject is Canadian Olympians -- in any of the races she has left here.
Via Tart Cider. Yes, you read right: DiManno believes that Klassen has to atone for getting a bronze medal.

My default position should come as no surprise: given the stringent qualification rules imposed by the IOC, the various sport governing bodies, and national Olympic committees, I don't think that anyone who manages to get to the Olympics has anything to apologize or atone for.

Now, DiManno's point is about people whose world championships fail to translate into gold medals. To which I would respond, so what? We're talking about someone who still managed to make it to the podium. If the world champion finished 24th, yes, some questions along the lines of "What the hell happened?" might be warranted.

But if world champions were supposed to win all the time, why bother running the races? I think anyone who actually competes in a sport will tell you that, yes, there are other people in their sport who are actually good, and things can happen during competition. If you're so myopic to conclude that if someone else wins, it's because it's your guy's fault, not because somebody else was better or stronger or just plain luckier that day, then you need to pull your head out of your ass and look around at the rest of the field a bit.

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  • At 8:53 AM, February 15, 2006 , Anonymous Dave Greten said...

    >I don't think that anyone who manages to get to the Olympics has anything to apologize or atone for.<


  • At 9:41 AM, February 15, 2006 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    As an avid Olympic fan--I love your site! You are so right about the callous disregard for what it takes for these dedicated atheletes to just get to the Olympics, and I think it's great that you're providing a counterbalance to the insane idea that only getting the Gold matters.

    Great job, thanks!

    --fan in Atlanta

  • At 11:20 AM, February 15, 2006 , Anonymous Donner said...

    Had a coach say something to this effect. All you can do is go as fast as you can because that is all you can control. If you get beat it just means the other guy was faster.

    Also, are not World Cup Championships decided by the results of many races over many months and therefore weight consistent high performance much more than the results on a single race?

  • At 12:33 PM, February 15, 2006 , Anonymous Electric Landlady said...

    So true.

    The Toronto Sun's headline about Klassen on Monday was "JUST A BRONZE". I'd like to see them try and do better.

  • At 10:38 PM, February 15, 2006 , Blogger James said...

    Amen. But you knew I'd agree with you, right? :)

  • At 9:10 PM, February 16, 2006 , Blogger Amateur said...

    I think this Olympic games have shown pretty clearly that favourites fail to win, and it happens all the time; and of course it makes the competition a lot more interesting to watch.

    HOWEVER, there is still an interesting issue here when it comes to Canada. The Canadian Olympic Committee talks about a "conversion problem." I did some analysis of previous-year world champions, whereas the COC uses World Cup performances as their metric. Either way, the result comes out the same -- Canadians do quite poorly as "medal favourites" at the Olympics, compared to athletes from other countries.

    I am not really sure what that means, but it is a pretty interesting fact.

  • At 12:30 PM, February 18, 2006 , Blogger Downhillnut said...

    Well said. Watching the women's snowboard cross last night reinforced for me that ANYTHING can happen, no matter how talented or well-trained you might be.

    "But if world champions were supposed to win all the time, why bother running the races?"

    Luck is when hard work makes you ready to seize the opportunity. These athletes work hard, sacrifice much and make the most of their chances. What more can we ask for!


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