The Gold Standard

“The main consideration was the national interest. The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings and in her expression.”

This statement made by the Beijing musical director on local radio stuns most of us. Turns out the 9 year-old cutie in the red dress who “sang” in the Olympic opening ceremony was lip synching for a 7 year-old whose smile was not considered as beautiful as her voice.

Combined with the allegations of under-aged gymnasts, people in this country are outraged at what appears to be such unbelievable expectations the Chinese hold their young people to.

I have to admit, the thoughts crossing my mind were not ones of good will. But maybe we should all take a closer look in the mirror before we’re so quick to judge.

“With a fall off the beam here, a splat on the floor there and two more steps out of bounds Wednesday, the Americans all but personally handed the gold medals to the Chinese team and settled for silver.”

How different are the insinuations of this quote by an SI.com article than what the Chinese music director said? Is a silver medal honestly so horrible we should make our girls feel shame for not bringing home the gold?

Even at 16 or 17, it’s darn young to feel the pressure of a nation. Was not our gymnast trying to be “flawless in image, in her internal feelings and in her expression”, even knowing the pain of what she’d just lost personally, as a team, and for her country? I couldn’t help but feel tears on her behalf, the ones she’s been trained to hold in.

As the mom of two competitive gymnasts, I’ve often thanked God my daughters have never been even the teensiest bit close to Olympic caliber athletes. I know how much the sport has dominated our lives and while my girls consistently put up one of the top three qualifying scores for their team, they aren’t superstar level even in their own gym. The sport is that demanding.

It’s this very small glimpse (as an athlete’s parent) that has me outraged at the audacity of that sportswriter to not only say the American team “settled” for their medals, but also to insinuate the US shouldn’t be proud of silver. The members of Team USA have been on top of the world more than once. This ONE meet wasn’t their best. What’s that saying? On any given day…

Thank goodness most of what we all work for our entire lives isn’t measured by something we do in less than ten minutes on a world stage.
Second in the ENTIRE WORLD! Most Olympic athletes go home without any medals, yet they are the very few elite from each country who even have the honor to compete in this time-honored tradition.

If it were just the sportswriters, we could probably get away with pointing our finger. But silver doesn’t get the front of the Wheaties box and who can name even one past bronze winner?

The outrage we felt for the treatment of the little 7 year-old singer with the imperfect gap between her front teeth proves all is not lost. But put down those stones and instead, let us put our hands together and proudly acknowledge ALL the US athletes who compete for our Olympic team!
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