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Reasons to be proud

By Nikki Stone
Sports Motivation
Updated: June 28, 2008
But still, I can hear the complaints all the way across the ocean: "Why didn't Bode Miller or Daron Rahlves win all the Alpine events? Why didn't Chad Hedrick match Eric Heiden's record of five gold medals? Why didn't Sasha Cohen stay up during her free skate? Why didn't Apolo Anton Ohno win more than one gold?"

They didn't because determined Frenchman and Austrians had the same goals as Bode and Rahlves. And because Hedrick's ambition was an extreme stretch. And because mistakes do happen when there is such intense pressure – even for a consistent, young girl like Cohen. And because Ohno's competition was training just as hard as he was.

But that's what the Olympics are about. Who wants to go to a Games if there is no one to stand toe-to-toe at the line or push competitors to train even harder?

Throughout the games, I heard several past medalists get the common "You want to make a comeback? These athletes need saving."

My response was always, "No, they don't need saving, they need support."
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It frustrates me to no end when I hear people putting down the Olympic athletes for their poor performances. Most of these people have no idea what it feels like to have the weight of their country resting on their shoulders. They have no idea what it feels like to have TV cameras inches from their face. They have no idea what it feels like knowing that if something goes wrong, you have to wait another four years to try again.

And they have no idea what it feels like to have their whole future resting on just a few seconds.

It's more pressure than most people will feel in a lifetime. I'm glad that I will never have to feel pressure like that again. It was that pressure that would keep me up endless nights and occupy my every waking thought. For this reason, I am always more sympathetic to a botched performance than most people are.

I won't pretend that I'm not saddened by some of the results – aerials in particular. It's hard to see fellow athletes hang their heads in disappointment after their lifelong dreams have just come to an end. I know how hard they worked and the pain they went through to get there. I know the sacrifices they made to even stand at the starting line. I know how badly they wanted this.

But medal or no medal, people are not defined by titles and accomplishments. We are defined by our character and the company we keep. I would much rather someone call me a good person than an Olympic gold medalist.

Just imagine there were cameras and commentators analyzing every aspect of your job. Would you be proud of what you demonstrated to the public? If not, maybe it's time to start following the lessons of the Olympians by being an armchair student, rather than an armchair coach.
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