Monday, August 25, 2008

Heroic dignity

In what is likely to be my last Olympics post I would like to talk about the athletes that lost. Some reacted bitterly, and some violently, some with justifiable shock, and others still with a quiet dignity.

Alicia Sacramone's fourth place vault finish due to inexplicable judging and her disastrous floor routine that almost certainly cost the American's the gold could have resulted in moaning, complaining, and excuses. She instead took responsibility for the mistakes she made and refused to complain in the face of legitimate injustice. It was a disappointing Olympics for a 20 year old girl with huge aspirations and she handled it with class and dignity.

Matt Emmons blundered away his chance for gold on his final shot for the second straight Olympics and how did he respond? With such restraint and dignity that it was singled out by Olympics chief Jacques Rogge as the most touching moment of the games.

Lolo Jones roared into the lead with two hurdles to go, assuring her of a gold medal only to clip the ninth hurdle breaking her rhythm just enough to deny her any medal at all. In few sports is the consequence for a small mistake larger than for a hurdler and yet she handled the massive disappointment with profound stoicism. She held her composure long enough to give numerous interviews, hug her rivals as they walked by and congratulate the winners with genuine respect. For what must felt like an eternity she was the epitome of good grace, never diminishing the glory of her rivals by surrendering to personal pain, knowing as she did that at 26 this was almost certainly her only Olympics.

Only later, standing alone in the dark did a cameraman finally catch glimpse of the immense pain and disappointment. Holding her head low, trying hard not to break down completely, it became obvious how much she hurt. Still, with the full weight of the disappointment resting on her and after all of her struggles, she refused to surrender her dignity and for that she will always be golden.

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