A Different Kind of Gold

As American gymnast Sam Mikulak watched South Korea’s Yang Hak-Seon perform his gold-medal-worthy vault at the Olympics, he was also watching his own dreams of a medal fade away. Rather than looking down or shaking his head, Mikulak was all smiles and excitement. As Hak-Seon walked by, Mikulak grabbed and hugged him. “Give me a hug!” he exclaimed exuberantly, “That was ridiculous!” Far from being downcast or dejected, Mr. Mikulak was giddy with the thrill of a fellow athlete’s success, even it came as a cost to his own. It was a heartfelt reminder that each and every one of those athletes is a winner, medal or not.

Despite what I’ve been posting here, there is more to the Olympics than guy candySpeedos, & bulges. For me, the most enjoyable part of the whole thing is when good sportsmanship is in evidence. These are athletes who have devoted their whole lives to being the best that they can be – and they all seem to understand that the other athletes have done the same thing. There is a competitive camaraderie that’s tangible, and though they each want to win the gold, for the most part they are not sore losers if they don’t. This is the sort of thing missing from the professional organized sports I usually hear about in this country – football, baseball, & basketball – to say nothing of the parents of Pee Wee baseball kids.

I am continuously moved to see people from different countries coming together, embracing at their triumphs and setbacks, but through it all united as one body of supremely-talented athletes. Apart from the thrilling spectacle of a perfect routine or game, it is the picture of two athletes supporting each other in their success, no matter the outcome. Yes, there are probably just as many icy stares and non-hugs when you’re at that level and the dreams of a medal don’t pan out, but Mr. Mikulak was a gracious reminder of the very best of these Olympic games. It’s not just about talent, it’s also about attitude. On that night he may not have won a medal, but his heart was pure gold.

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