I sat in my chair last night, watching more of the Olympics, and thought about what it means to “win.” Who are the winners? Is it just the few who reach the podium? I think  not.

Yes, those who take home medals are definitely winners and definitely to be honored. They perform what seem to be absolutely incredible feats at times, feats I could never imagine doing in my wildest dreams (and that I sometimes cringe, watching). They–and their families–make incredible sacrifices…sometimes willingly, sometimes not so willingly (depending on the culture). They spend hours training, disciplining their bodies and their minds.

But what about those we never hear about? Those who come to represent their countries but who never make it past the qualifying rounds? How should they be described?

Or those who make it into the finals but who don’t end up on the podium? What are they?


It’s easy for me to sit in my chair and critique (or criticize) their performances. It’s easy to say, “Oh, there’s no way they should have missed that!”…all the while knowing that there’s no way I could even begin to do the things they do. It’s easy–as I’m sitting there in comfort–to wonder how they could have let their nerves get the best of them…knowing that I’d be likely to be in the bathroom, throwing up out of nervousness.

Just getting to the Olympics makes them winners in my mind–especially when you can tell that they are doing their best. (Those who intentionally try to lose–or those who use unfair means to try to win–are something else, and they’re not the ones I want to talk about.) Many of them come, knowing that they don’t have any realistic chance of standing on the podium, but they are there doing something that they love…that they’ve trained years for…that they want to represent their country in.

Why wouldn’t nerves sometimes get in the way? In some of these events, they’re still just kids…16, 17 years old. They’re competing in front of audiences they’ve never dreamed of…against people they’ve looked up to…under unimaginable pressure.

And so to me, any of the athletes who are there, doing their best, are winners–whether they are standing on the podium or not.