February 18, 2006
LEARNING ABOUT DISAPPOINTMENT
When I was twenty years old, I was
spending as much time as possible learning about things that people told
me to learn about. Here’s what I wasn’t doing: becoming the world
champion in snowboard cross, becoming an overall Grand Prix champion, winning
medals all over the world, competing in two different disciplines of an elite
sport, or crowing about being undefeated when I was 18 or 19 years old.
Lindsey Jacobellis, age 20, apparently screwed up.
Having made it to the finals in the Olympic debut of women’s snowboard cross,
she decided to enjoy her ride, give something to her fans, and throw a little
“method air” on her second-to-last jump. The result? Not so good.
So now the 20-year-old knows something else: what it feels like to
be disappointed. Disappointed with a silver medal at the Olympic Games.
Sounds a bit strange, yes?
She’s been compared to every great sporting collapse/disaster/nightmare in
history. The one that hit me hardest was that of Bill Buckner,
the tale of the ball rolling between his legs, the easy play that never got
made. I was 16 years old when that ball rolled through. Lindsey
Jacobellis wasn’t even born yet. It was a devastating moment – something
I still find hard to watch or talk about – and not, I think, really relevant
to the tale of the athlete that they once called “Lucky Lindsey.”
She’s not alone in her disappointment. The women of the ice – the American
women’s hockey team – lost to Sweden in a shoot-out. It was the first
time they lost a game to anyone other than Canada. Disappointing?
Yes – they may only come home with a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.
Disappointed with a bronze medal at the Olympic Games. Sounds a bit
Figure skater Michelle Kwan was only in Torino for a few days, deciding
that she could not skate at what would have been her third Olympics, making
way for young Emily Hughes. Kwan will have to settle her life
with a silver and bronze medal from her previous Olympic performances.
Disappointing? Yes, that elusive gold medal is the only thing that
the 9-time national champion does not have on her resume. Disappointed
with a silver and bronze. Sounds strange, indeed.
When Baron Pierre de Coubertin created the modern Olympic Games in
1896, he established what has become the Olympic Creed: The most
important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just
as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
We know that this is harder to live by than aspire to. We know it is
a lie to say that it is just an honor to be nominated or that anyone is really
just happy to be here. Athletes want to win. But sometimes the
rest of need to understand that winning is not merely defined by the color
of the medal around one’s neck, or even about whether there is a medal there
at all. Just ask figure skater Evan Lysacek. After skating
what he surely will remember to be the worst short program of his life, fighting
a stomach flu and feeling horrible all-around, he came back with an inspiring
long program that brought the fans to their feet, landing himself in fourth
place with a personal best score that almost became the comeback of the Games.
He leaves Torino without a medal. He was disappointed. But now
he looks pretty happy to me.
H A V E A Q
U E S T I O N F O R D R . B A S S
D U R I N G T H E W I N T E R G A M E S ?
L I C K H E R E
We will be posting
the questions and answers
on the CNR At
The Winter Games website!
m o r e
Be sure to check back often for Dr. Amy
Bass's updates to her
Online CNR Winter Olympic Games Diary.
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