These are women who have worked most of their lives to make the Olympics. They have trained at the crack of dawn and dedicated hours and hours of their lives to honing their talents. They have focused on one thing and one thing only - an Olympic medal, the gold medal. Imagine having that all-consuming focus and then narrowly missing out? It would be completely understandable if you were so deflated, you didn’t have the energy to hug the woman or team who beat you in the end.
But that’s exactly what we’ve seen, again and again. Today, when Tatjana Schoemaker pipped Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor to win gold in a tight race, they were the first to reach over and give her a congratulatory hug as she cried with disbelief at landing a new Olympic record. Their joy was so transparently genuine, at a time when they surely were feeling natural disappointment at having just missed the top medal.
Just then, as I write this, Emma McKeon landed gold in the 100m freestyle. Cate Campbell scored bronze - also a huge life moment of course, and one to celebrate. But it would be easy for Cate to feel jealousy in that moment, right? Instead, she was all smiles and support for Emma's win and her own.
Obviously, making it to the Olympics is a feat in and of itself, and one to celebrate. You are one of the best in your field.
As is landing any medal in a final - hell, MAKING it to a final is a win! There is a lot to celebrate as an Olympic athlete, but remember - these are people who have dedicated their lives to win in their chosen sport. They have such a limited career, often retiring after a couple of Olympics. It means everything to win, so to have the grace to swallow feelings of disappointment, sadness and defeat to share in the joy of your fellow athletes is really something.
It made me feel pretty awful about how competitive I’ve been in the past, to be honest. So many times I’ve refused to double-tap someone’s Instagram post celebrating a career win or life goal because I felt disappointed about my own progress. Those icky moments where I’ve bitched about someone because deep-down, I’m jealous of them.
There are a lot of life lessons we can learn from Olympians - dedication, determination, focus. But I think this year, I’m going to try and take that genuine supportiveness into my own life.