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Olympic swimmer Lilly King think it’s a disgrace that few Americans value second place. Scoring silver in her 200-meter breaststroke meet on Friday, King’s pride with placing second in the race, also winning bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke, made her reconsider her satisfaction with landing in the top three instead of aiming for the top spot.
“Excuse my French, but the fact that we don’t celebrate silver and bronze is bulls—. …
“Just because we compete for the United States, and maybe we have extremely high standards for this sort of thing, that doesn’t excuse the fact that we haven’t been celebrating silver and bronze as much as gold.”
While King generalizes that the majority of Americans watching at home don’t value accolades from this Olympic swimmer and other competitors on Team U.S.A. unless it’s gold they’re winning, the overwhelming sentiment here in the States continues to support any athlete proud to don the red, white and blue — regardless of where they place.
Tying in the notion of American exceptionalism — a tacit principle inherent with any global superpower — Lilly King’s complaint sounds honest and raises salient points based on the expectations often fixed on our athletes. But the critique also runs a bit convenient based on the “showmanship” with winning gold that she previously displayed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games — which also displays the unmatched pride that an athlete experiences once they’re dubbed the “best.” And the bragging rights that come with it.
Lauded for her accomplishments in the past week, King’s assessment that she’s being assigned a mandatory push for gold has, quite frankly, been far most Americans’ sentiments watching the Olympic Games.
Social media’s Trend pages and major networks tweeting out encouragements for Team U.S.A.’s athletes, with four heart emojis tacked at the end, embodies the majority’s respect for the rigorous training that these competitors go through to reach the global stage. Though King may not feel it from the pools in Japan.
“I might be more happy with this medal than I’ve been with any of my previous medals, including the two golds in Rio,” admitted King. “We really should be celebrating those silver and bronzes, because those are some of the greatest moments of that athlete’s career, and why would we not celebrate that?”
Though American exceptionalism has some room to ease off its great expectations, the ideals that fuel the quest for best should rarely take a back seat. The appreciation for accomplishments won’t be lost and a generation of Americans that follow can look to those efforts for inspiration. The process may be excruciating, but the effort will always serve as its own reward.
When the going gets tough, it’s best to rest on the mantra set by NASCAR legend Ricky Bobby to get you out of bed and into that Zumba class.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela