I have been glued to the television watching every second of the Olympics possible. More than the competitions, I love the back stories. I love to cheer for the underdog and see them wave up to their mom that adopted them as a teenager. I love to watch the tears of joy that stream down their cheeks. I always feel a little sorry for the athlete that screws up their best routine or race. I hurt for the fourth place finisher since they just barely missed standing on the podium. I adore when an athlete performs their absolute best even if they didn't crush the competition. I love everything about the Olympics. Almost.
While I was on vacation I watched the vault individual gymnastic championships and was excited to see how far this event has come. I was an amateur high school vault State finalist, so always thought I had a far removed kinship to these athletes. When they introduced the competitors, the commentators described McKayla Maroney as the American who could win the vault even under the worst case scenarios. She was by far the heavy favorite to bring home the gold medal.
It all looked good after the first vault, but then tragedy in the gymnastics world occurred and she fell on her second vault. That pushed her into the silver medal placement which is where she stayed. I felt so bad for her initially. The cameras were in her face and trying to capture every last emotion. She was cold and indifferent. Boy, that has to be a tough position to be in and have everyone staring at you waiting for your reaction.
After a while of feeling badly, I started to watch her reactions and I switched to feeling embarrassed for her. She started pouting, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms. When she was put on the podium, she glared at the first place finisher and was so angry. There was no part of her that was enjoying the experience.
I wanted to shake her - "PUT THIS IN PERSPECTIVE! YOU ARE A MEDAL EARNING OLYMPIAN. YOU ARE IN THE RECORD BOOKS FOR LIFE. YOU ARE AMAZING. ENJOY THIS. STOP ACTING LIKE A SPOILED BRAT."
Maroney had the opportunity to hold her head up high and make everyone admire her resilience. There have been a number of opportunities where she has proven she is the best vaulter in the World. Everyone knows it. She needed to appreciate where she was and how amazing it was to medal at the Olympics.
It's such a shame. Instead of being known as an incredible athlete, she's known as the girl who threw a tantrum on the Olympic podium for taking second. I know Maroney is young but if any of my daughters acted like that after a competition I would be furious. Don't take away from your amazing feat. Enjoy the ride and be happy you earned a front row seat. The extreme athleticism will fade with age. However the lessons learned on the journey will hopefully stay forever.
There is a great deal of pride to be felt after a performance. But it shows much more about a person in how they handle the outcome - both for the winners and the "losers".