My colleague Maggie Hendricks proposed in a recent item that American gymnast Nastia Liukin and her Chinese opponent He Kexin each be awarded a gold medal in the uneven bars because they achieved the same score on the apparatus; instead, Olympic officials followed the established tie breaking protocol and elevated He to the gold medal platform.
I gotta say, I'm with Maggie on this one. In fact, I'll go one step further and say that all the gymnasts should get a medal. Yes, let's give them all a nice, shiny gold medal because they all worked so hard and did their best. And then after the medal ceremony, the team moms can give them each a juice box and a tasty hypoallergenic snack food to tide them over until we get to McDonalds.
Listen, if you want to know why the United States is losing in the gold medal count (last I checked, USA had 25 and China had 42), it's because the "we're all winners" attitude has overtaken the American sports culture. This is sports. It's the Olympics. There is a winner and a loser. The winner gets the gold medal. The loser gets silver, bronze or memories. Thanks, you've been great, see you in four years, if you're good enough.
I am not saying that the second best person in the entire world is a loser. But the second best person is not the best and the best gets a gold medal. I think Liukin didn't complain about the decision because she is a competitor in the true sense of the word. I'll bet she knew what it would come down to as soon as the "tie score" was posted, and when the decision was made, she accepted it. When she was losing after the first two rounds of the individual all-around, she didn't fret about the scoring system. All she did was get her game together and bang out high-scoring routines on the beam and floor exercise to get the gold medal.
And don't try to convince me that these young girls are too fragile to deal with the disappointment. Liukin has been involved in gymnastics since she was three years old. Regardless of your opinion on that matter, she has had 15 years of experience in the sport - more than enough time to learn how to deal with the adversity that is a great part of competition. If she couldn't handle it, she would have dropped out a long time ago.
I have two children who play a variety of sports. When they first started playing, everybody got a trophy and everybody got to play - which is fine. Newcomers to a sport should get every incentive to continue in that sport so that they can learn and have fun; but at some point they have to learn that sports are about competition. If you want to win, you have to compete. If you compete, you might lose.
In our local soccer league, the championship for the Under 8 league was decided by a coin flip because the final game was tied. In the Under 10, we had the same situation in the semifinals; we went through our prescribed tiebreakers and were deadlocked until the last one: penalty kicks. Our team lost by one and did not get to play in the championship. As disappointing as that was, I think it would have been worse to end in a coin flip, or a tie.
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