Ben Whittaker, a GB boxer, and Sky Brown, a young skateboarder won Olympic 2020 medals this week. Ben won a silver and Sky won a bronze. But their reactions were very different. Bath City Language Coaching asks Does Winning Matter?
Sky Brown, just 13 years old, was over the moon to be on the podium, even if it was in third place. She has become the youngest ever Great Britain athlete to win an Olympic medal. The huge smile on Sky Brown‘s face was like what you would expect to see on a 10-year-old girl on Christmas morning when she was given a box of chocolates by One Direction’s Harry Styles. She was grinning from ear to ear, and I bet everyone who saw it smiled as well.
Ben Whittaker was very upset at finishing second after losing his match against a guy from Cuba. He walked off in tears, and later appeared on TV to say that he “hadn’t won silver, but lost gold”. He said he felt he had let himself, his home city of Coventry, and Great Britain down. The joy I felt at Ben Whittaker‘s 2020 medal was squashed as he expressed his disappointment. He even refused to put his silver medal round his neck when standing on the winners’ podium; he put it in his pocket instead. Another Great Britain boxer, Frazer Clarke, came third and won a bronze medal in his match, and he was overjoyed to have made it onto the winners’ podium.
So, the question is: Is it the taking part that matters, or is winning the only thing that is important? Is a silver medal or a bronze medal a sign that you are a loser, as Ben Whittaker says? Or like Frazer Clarke and Sky Brown showed, is second and third place OK?
Bath City Language Coaching (i.e. Simon) has always been hopeless at sport. I lost the primary school egg-and-spoon race; I lost the sack race; and I lost the three-legged race, all at the age of 6 or 7. I was terrible at jumping and skipping; I was awful at throwing and catching; and I was useless at running.
At the age of 6, I could not swim at all. My dad’s solution? Throw me in the deep end of the swimming pool. He probably thought I would magically start moving my arms and legs to keep me afloat. He was wrong. I sank to the bottom of the pool and had to be rescued by a lifesaver on duty at the poolside. I am still scared of swimming pools, rivers, and going in the sea, and I still can’t swim at all.
When I was 8, I played my first game of football. We all walked onto the football field, and the boys all took their places on various parts of the pitch. Standing with my hands in my pockets and looking confused, I heard the teacher shout, “Simon, you are in defence. Get moving!” My honest reply was, “Where’s that?” I had no idea of the names of football positions. “You bloody idiot,” the teacher shouted and he pointed to a spot near the goalkeeper.
The football match started. Nobody passed me the ball. I just stood there wondering what I was supposed to do. A boy from the other team ran past me while I was standing still and picking my nose and scored. I had never heard such bad language as my team-mates yelled at me. Later, the goalkeeper at my end stopped a ball going into the net, and he kicked it to me (I think I was supposed to run down the field with it). So, what did I do? I kicked it back at him as hard as I could, and the ball went flying through his legs. Yes! I had scored the one and only goal I have ever scored in my life. It was a pity that it was an Own Goal and helped the opposing team to beat us 3-0. When I watched the film KES, I realised I was not the only boy who had failed at football.
Years later, I was in the school heats to decide who would go to represent our school against all the other local schools in the 800-metre race. There were around fifteen of us at the starting line, and we were all moaning about having to do running in the hot sun. Then, BANG! The starting pistol fired and we started running. After a few seconds, I realised I was in front of the pack. How could this be, I thought. I was terrible at running; I always came last in races. But my skinny legs were carrying me further and further ahead of the others. Bystanders were cheering me on, I was popular at last! Maybe this would mean I’d get a girlfriend now – who wants to go out with a boy who sits in the library reading all day? But as I reached 600 metres, it suddenly dawned on me. The four fastest boys would go on to represent the school in the huge inter-school competitions later that month. So that was why the others were running so slowly – they didn’t want to do that. And neither did I. So, with less than 200 metres to the finishing line, I stopped running. I grabbed my chest and fell to the ground. I started rolling around and shouting, “Oooh! It hurts! My heart, my chest! Oww!” I remember the other boys running past me, looking down at my act of pain, and calling me lots of rude names. Now they would have to compete against the other schools, and I wouldn’t. When ten or so boys had gone past, I got up and limped towards the finishing line to looks of disgust from the sports teachers and headteacher, and hatred and jealousy from the boys my acting had made win the race. Or had they lost?