|Source: The Age|
Like many people, I've been shocked and saddened by the reactions of some of our Olympic athletes when they haven't walked away with a gold medal. I understand that these young people have worked hard and given up much to chase their dream of Olympic glory, and that of course they all want to win gold. But to feel that you've FAILED because you didn't take out the top prize? Wow.
Qualifying for Olympic selection? That's an achievement. Winning a heat against some of the world's best? Achievement. Getting to the finals and taking home a silver or bronze medal? HUGE achievement. And regardless of your place at the end, swimming/running/rowing (or whatever) your best effort on the day? That's also an achievement, and all that anybody can ask of an athlete - coaches, family, fans, or the athletes themselves.
These kids aren't failing - but something in our sports system is failing them. I don't know what training, coaching or counselling they receive to help them deal with the emotional side of competing at international level, but I hope it's being reviewed, because it clearly isn't good enough.
One thing that I'm sure is having an effect on them is the media. I don't remember ever seeing such negative, judgmental reporting of an Olympics before - and I've seen quite few Olympics. This article, from today's Age, is one of the tamer ones, but the generally negative tone makes me very angry. How about some "Yay! Our boy won silver!" instead of "Ooh, we're so disappointed he missed out on winning gold". Bah!
I think our media are behaving like a bunch of spoiled brats. Australia has had a pretty good run in international sports over recent years. Our cricket team has mostly been unbeatable, we had a Tour de France champion last year, we generally clean up at the Commonwealth Games, and our efforts at the last few Olympics have been damn good. So now it seems that we think it's our God-given right to bring home a bag full of gold medals. Seriously? We have a very short memory...
I recall the Montreal Olympics, back in 1976. All our hopes for glory in the pool lay with Stephen Holland, who was nicknamed Superfish, after he smashed 12 world records. That kid, who was only 18, went into the competition with a heavy load of expectation on his shoulders. He "only" managed to bring home a single bronze medal, for the 1500m freestyle - in fact, that was the only medal Australia won in the pool that year.
The weight of public disappointment affected him so badly that he retired from swimming altogether after the Olympics. I wonder what he might have achieved, had he continued on? We'll never know.
There's a lesson in that story. I doubt that sports reporters and editors care though....