Service of All Olympians are Winners

July 29th, 2021

Categories: Awards, Loser, Sports, Trophy, Winning, Youth

Ariarne Titmus of Australia, left, won. Katie Ledecky, USA, won silver.

A friend wrote on Twitter early this week: “One thing that bothers me about Olympic press coverage is when silver medalists are described as having ‘lost.’ Yes, it’s technically true. But when there are 3 top prizes, I consider any of those positions a win. Being second or third best in the world is an accomplishment.”

A New York Times headline illustrates the point: “Katie Ledecky Feels the Sting of a First Olympic Loss. In the 400-meter freestyle, she was something of an underdog.” She won silver.

The tweet reminded me of what I’d written three years ago: “My father, for years an avid Olympics watcher and supporter, reminded us during each winter and summer game that even the ‘worst’ of the participants are outstanding athletes. It’s easy to forget sometimes when listening to the coverage of the announcers, often past athletes themselves, criticizing a tiny twitch of a knee or microscopic landing quiver.” This was from the post: “Service of Pick Yourself Up & Dust Yourself Off: Olympic Figure Skaters Rule.”

Image by Josh Dick from Pixabay

I never met my husband’s grandfather who rowed for America at an Olympics long ago but I was impressed to learn that. I don’t remember who won–doesn’t matter.

It’s ironic that we can be so hard on these outstanding athletes who deserve acclaim and so easy on kids in team sports where everyone wins an award no matter the outcome. In “The Participation Trophy Debated: What Psychologists Say” on “Giving children a reward for their efforts is great, because it shows them the value of being present, working hard, and contributing to a team. They are shown how good it is to be reliable, and how important the effort of every person is, no matter if it leads to a victory or a loss.”

The other side of the debate from the same post: “The biggest argument against participation trophies is that handing them out is a form of overprotection for our children. In other words, we hand out trophies to kids, no matter how poorly they performed, so they don’t feel bad about losing. Kids never get the chance to experience failure, or to learn from it. They grow up feeling entitled to rewards for simply showing up.”

Do you come down on the side of the press who consider Olympic gold winners the only ones who count? What about giving all kids a trophy to participate–yea or nay?

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

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12 Responses to “Service of All Olympians are Winners”

  1. Deborah Wright Said:

    I agree with the hard facts that all Olympic competitors are outstanding and extraordinary athletes. Just to be there is a testament to their amazing skills. So, no, in my view the winner of a gold medal who won by two seconds does not diminish the achievement of the one who was two seconds behind.

    I do not agree with giving every child a trophy who participates in a sport. It is part of the movement in parenting that no one should feel disappointment or sadness while participating in a team sport or any kind of competition. It is similar to giving every elementary child an “A” when he or she did not earn it. What is the point or importance of a trophy if everyone gets one? My granddaughter is on a beginner’s soccer team. She is clearly the worst one on the team. But she loves running around and being in the fresh air. She does not like the ball to come near her she told me! So, if you ask her, she will say she would like to resume in the fall because it is fun. Now, there are no trophies to be had on this level, but if there were, she surely would not get one. Nor should she. It is part of life to explore and learn what are your own unique skills.

  2. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    I agree with Deborah. Especially with the olympics just the honor of making it in should be enough. If you gave everyone who showed up a ribbon of some sort I think the meaning would be lost.

  3. ASK Said:

    As someone who dropped Social Pyschology 101 in college, I have limited patience with some of the advice of psychologists…children don’t deserve ribbons or medals or trophies for taking part in an activity or competition. That is not how the real world operates. An athlete who qualifies for the Olympics is indeed an elite performer and should be recognized for their outstanding abilities. I also think that social media platforms and a most intrusive media don’t really help these athletes either…

  4. Hussein Ahman-Uttah Said:

    Weren’t they saying that Ledecky “lost”the gold today in the sense that before today’s competition she was the gold medal holder but now she no longer is?

  5. Jim Gordon Said:

    I don’t think that everyone needs a trophy, but those who don’t win are not losers. They’re probably terrific but for that moment less terrific than the medal winners. Hip hip to them all.

  6. BC Said:

    They are all first class winners in my book, just for being there. God Bless them.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Giving trophies for all participants isn’t great but A’s? Yikes! We might have third graders who can’t read as a result.

    How endearing your story of your brave granddaughter! She gets my “good sportsmanship” award. She sounds adventuresome and curious and maybe, if the soccer ball isn’t too heavy, [you can tell I never played soccer] if she is once hit by it, it won’t hurt.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Not according to this New York Times headline: “Katie Ledecky Feels the Sting of a First Olympic Loss. In the 400-meter freestyle, she was something of an underdog.” I interpret this that she didn’t get gold so she lost.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Social media amplifies negatives especially–in my opinion. We heard the word “loser” so often under the previous administration that we are having a hard time ridding ourselves of the concept.

    One thread that I find appalling is in regard to the brave Simone Biles where she’s accused of disappointing the public by stepping out of the competition. These people really think that she should literally break her neck for the public? Goodness.

    I heard a morning radio host whine that the show must go on –actors do if practically on a stretcher and so should Simone. There is no danger to the actor short of fainting on stage or giving everyone in the cast a cold and fever while Simone–or any gymnast at her level–to land on her head at such speed could kill herself.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree–the meaning is lost if everyone wins a prize.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:



  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For sure! Kudos one and all.

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