As competitively pure as one might like the Olympics — summer or winter — to be (in that 'perfect world'), distractions are never far away, unfounded or not.
I can certainly understand the disappointment of an athlete who has failed to achieve the pinnacle of his or her wishes. A certain amount of distress is a natural reaction from any competitor, and can reach a level most of us cannot possibly relate to in the arena of world-elite competition.
The near uncontrollable sobbing during an interview by Chinese weight lifter Wu Jingbiao after his event last week was a disturbing display, made even moreso in the context of his sentiments. The olympian railed on about his own inadequacies, and how he had let down the motherland by not winning the gold medal. And it is not like the weight lifter had performed incompetently... the lifter, competing in the 56Kg weight class, had just earned a silver medal. So, theoretically, he is the second-best lifter of his division — in the entire world.
But in his owns words, Jingbiao had just disgraced the motherland because the tally of China's gold medals was unmoved by his efforts.
There is, I guess, a vast difference between patriotism and nationalism, evidenced by Wu's over-the-top display. I have, and always will, root for the athlete sporting USA in the Olympics... unashamedly. We have our issues as a nation, but I still prefer this one to any other. And am so proud of the athletes who have worked so hard to represent their country, but can still reap very personal joy from winning gold, silver or just making it to London.
In time, I hope Wu can enjoy his personal achievement instead of being stigmatized, even in his own mind, as a national failure.