I’ve been following the news stories coming out of the Winter Olympics in Beijing these last few weeks.
The stories I’ve found most intriguing have been around women’s figure skating.
Kamila Valieva — an athlete favored for gold who skated for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) — failed a drug test weeks ago, but the results were not known until after the Olympics began.
She’s only 15 years old, and many blame the adults around her for the drug use. After some initial rulings by the powers that be, she was allowed to continue skating in the Olympics while the circumstances around her failed drug test were investigated.
In the final skate, Valieva was expected to win gold but fell multiple times and ended up placing fourth. The world watched as her coach criticized her on global television for falling, and the 15-year-old fell apart in tears.
The woman who did win gold, Anna Shcherbakova (also with the ROC), was disappointed because despite winning gold, all of the attention was on Valieva for failing to medal.
The woman who won silver, Alexandra Trusova (also a teammate with the ROC), was also in tears for failing to win gold.
The whole situation surrounding this event just seems to be a complete disaster.
To be #1 out of 3.9 billion women in the world and be disappointed seems bizarre (yet totally understandable, given the very unusual circumstances)…
To be #2 out of 3.9 billion women in the world and to be so devastated as to initially refuse to participate in the medal ceremony…
To be #4 out of 3.9 billion women in the world, have all your accomplishments questioned due to a failed drug test, fall multiple times, and then have your coach chew you out in front of a global television audience can’t feel good.
I’m hardly a women’s figure skating expert. However, I do have daughters in the same age range as these young women. In my (perhaps naive) mind, I think of the spirit of the Olympics as everyone skating their absolute best and seeing where the medals land.
Seeing figure skating as an unmitigated emotional and psychological disaster for these young women is painful to witness. Numerous sports commentators and dignitaries have made similar comments.
In moments like these, I don’t focus on the medal count. I focus on these three Russian women who are, in my mind, first and foremost, human beings. I may be wrong, but it seems like they see their primary role as winning gold medals (where even winning silver is seen as a complete failure).
I hope these women (and the adults around them) allow themselves to be human beings separate from how they perform in the medal count.
My personal value is that winning at all costs is not worth it. There’s a line beyond which winning is just not worth it. Where that line is will vary by person. I can’t help but think these women have crossed or been pushed over that line.
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