Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winning the Silver

I like sports, especially the Olympics. So, I will write about some sport topic from time to time.

Do you remember Lindsey Jacobellis? She was a U.S. snowboarder in the snowboard cross event, competing in the 2006 Torino Olympics. In the gold medal race she held a substantial lead as most of her competitors had fallen. On the last jump she reached out and grabbed her board. This moment of excitement caused her to fall. Watching that race I remember jumping out of my seat and yelling at the T.V. "get up! get up!" She did get up, but had already been passed by another competitor. Lindsey won the silver. Boy did sports commentators have a field day with this. They were all talking about the importance of not show boating, and making sure all the kids learned that lesson. Lindsey was really derided. I thought she actually handled the after-effects with quite a lot of class. But, I became frustrated because I felt like they were all missing the bigger lesson. To me the lesson was that every last one of us makes mistakes. But, its what we do afterwards that is more important. Lindsey got back up, and she claimed her prize. She won, I repeat, WON the silver medal. I wish we could all draw on that, we ought to listen to that voice that says "get up! get up!" after we fall.

Did you know that the refinement process for silver is actually much more strenuous than it is for gold? Watching silver medalists has reminded me of this. So, often you win the silver medal by losing the gold medal match. That can be pretty heart breaking. But, I always appreciate it when the silver medalists are gracious, like the U.S. women's soccer team in the 2000 Sidney games. They were very bummed when they lost the gold medal match in overtime, but they were also incredibly gracious. There are a ton of really great examples.

My favorite silver medalists of all time was Matt Ghaffari in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He was born in Iran, but had become a U.S. citizen. He was a young man who loved his country dearly and so much wanted to win the gold for the USA. In the 130 kg final of Greco-Roman wrestling he was matched up against Alexander Karelin of Russia. Karelin was amazing and Matt lost a tough match. On the medal stand Matt just sobbed. When asked later why he was so emotional he talked about how when he saw the flag it broke his heart that he wasn't hearing his own national anthem.
A few days later the infamous Olympic bombing occurred. Matt Ghaffari went to the hospital to visit the injured. He took his silver medal with him and let the victims hold and wear his medal while he spoke with them and encouraged them. He turned a heart breaking experience into a service, and you could see the joy on his face as he served the people. I was and still am very touched by that.

Sometimes we come up short and win the silver. But, sometimes that victory can mean more than winning the gold especially if you let yourself come out better for it.

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