Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Agony of Defeat & A Failure of Sportsmanship

Imagine this: you've worked tirelessly at something for years, taken odd jobs and sacrificed in a way that most of us never will experience in our lives. All for the chance to one day compete in an athletic event that won't last as long as most television commercials. You have sacrificed, compromised and trained your way into the position as the top performer in your sport. You are running the 100 meter hurdles final in the Olympics. You posted the fastest time in the world this year in the semifinals. You are so far ahead that it is a foregone conclusion that you will win the gold medal.

And then, your foot clips the top of the next to last hurdle and you go down, in a heap. In a daze, you stand and jump the last hurdle and finish the race seventh.

My God, how horrible that must feel.

That is what happened today to American Lolo Jones, the premier athlete in the world in the 100 meter hurdles. She was out front, cruising to victory, when it all fell apart:

"About twice a year you hit a hurdle and it affects your race," Jones said. "Unfortunately, it was the biggest race of my life."
After crossing the finish line, Jones collapsed and cried. Years of sacrifice came pouring out; she was simply heartbroken at what had taken place. You just had to feel sorry for her, right?

Not if you were fellow American and competitor Dawn Harper. Harper couldn't be bothered with even so much as speaking to her teammate:

Harper set off in a delirious victory lap and never bothered to look back at Jones, stricken on the track. Neither did the surprise silver and bronze medalists, Australian Sally McLellan and Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schleip. American fourth-place finisher Damu Cherry placed her hands sympathetically on Jones' shoulders as she sat on her knees and cried.
At least Cherry played the part of a human and stuck around to console Jones. The kicker was that Harper crossed the line a full tenth of a second slower than the time Jones had run in the prelims.

Now, I know that you've got to clear all of the hurdles in order to win the race; but, at the same time, don't you have to have a small bit of respect for the woman lying on the track? It wasn't like Harper beat Jones "fair and square"; rather, it took a catastrophic fall from Jones for Harper to even sniff the gold.

At any rate, in Bejing today, you were able to see the awfulness of the agony of defeat, only to watch it followed up by a complete failure of sportsmanship. Frankly, I expect more out of our athletes, and Harper failed her test of sportsmanship.

ESPN: Don't think Olympics can't be cruel?

1 comment:

ncsumatman said...

I completely disagree. Jones should have congratulated her teammate. Winners are gracious, but so are losers, and Jones pity party was the failure of sportsmanship.

I suppose next time George Mason takes it to Carolina in the NCAA tourney they should console rather than celebrate?