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What We Can Learn from the Losers

posted: 2.14.14 by Donna Winchell

One of the most thoughtful arguments I have seen regarding Olympic competition during the Sochi Olympics came from the mom of a “tween” on a blog called Tween Us on The piece has the intriguing title “Thank You, Shaun White, for Not Medaling in the Olympics.” There were undoubtedly those who got pleasure, secret or otherwise, from the fact that the flamboyant Flying Tomato who was expected to shine on the half pipe finished fourth and thus just off the podium. He has made a fortune from snowboarding and is accused of having distanced himself from the other American competitors. What Shannan Younger applauds in her article, however, is the lessons that children can take away from White’s performance on and off the snow this week:

  1. You don’t always win. We tend to want every child to get a trophy, a ribbon, or a medal, but in life, there have to be losers. Still, even to be a competitor in the Olympics is to be a winner.
  2. Being a good sport matters. After his disastrous last run, White hugged Iouri Podladtchikov, who won the gold that White had hoped to win. White told the commentator who interviewed him immediately afterward that he was happy for the guys who did well.
  3. He didn’t give up. If a former gold medalist can have a bad day, anyone can. White walked away with his fourth-place finish already referring to the next time.
  4. He asked for a hug. That’s not always easy to do. Having friends who support you no matter what makes the hard times easier.

Younger doesn’t mention those athletes who illustrate a view of winning that we don’t want our children to learn. Those are the ones for whom only gold is good enough, who act as though even silver or bronze is not worth winning. That attitude leaves little room for good sportsmanship or for friendly hugs. 

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