There is no doubt James Magnussen went into the 30th Olympiad with the weight of a nation bearing down on those broad shoulders of his. Some of it was no doubt self inflicted, and a fair chunk was likely whacked on thanks to a healthy hype machine that has a home in the Australian media landscape.
|Not a happy loser|
So the disbelief of not even placing in the 4x100m Freestyle Relay must have more than left him reeling.
BUT still, as a parent of an impressionable, young sport loving son, who is in the midst of a serious grapple with bad sportsmanship issues, I found it very unsettling to watch Magnussen’s reaction to the shock relay loss.
Sure, I can certainly appreciate he was completely, utterly devastated. He’d have no doubt dedicated every ounce of his core to this moment in time and it must have been beyond shattering to have come up short, especially when you have been touted by your fellow countrymen & women as a sure thing. But the detached, dismissive demeanour displayed during the pool deck interview left me more steeped disappointment than the fact they’d lost.There would have been countless impressionable kids watching, and here they were being given an unfortunate lesson in how not to handle unexpected defeat.
Of course I have no idea how crushing the frustration at failing must have felt, and if I were he, maybe it would have been my natural instinct to act the same way. But the way he stood back from his fellow team members, literally disconnecting from the fray, just left me shaking my head in dismay.
Perhaps this unexpected loss will fire “The Missile” right up to launch like a bag of illegal firecrackers come next event. Perhaps after the dust has settled on the aftermath of the relay, Magnussen will reassess how he handles future media engagements. And perhaps there will be less unfair expectation hoisted high upon those broad swimming shoulders. He is only human, and ergo open to make mistakes as easily and as often as the rest of us. Maybe that was what the whole after event fiasco will boil down to – a simple human response to something that shocked him to his core. Whatever the case I only hope that this does not translate into a young swimmer somewhere in Australia seeing this and modelling their own attitude to winning and losing on this act alone. Because children as young as mine are watching and learning – exhibit A would be the fact my almost 4 year old morphed my lounge-room into a makeshift gymnasium today, complete with dining room chairs stacked side-by-side to be the audience arena and was intent on performing all sorts of leaping inspired tricks he’d seen on the TV!
So, if any moulding is done by the young, let us hope it is in the shadows of the way Magnussen will no doubt bounce back – because I imagine he will be blasting off with all the might of his Missile moniker come next game day. And whether he wins or not, I only hope it shows those like my easily influenced son it’s not how hard you fall, its the picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and not giving up that makes you a winner regardless of any medal ceremony.