Olympic World-Chumpions

Back to New Zealand….
Ooo, that’s gotta hurt: Katie McVean disagrees with her horse, Forest

Two weeks of video highlights, color announcers screaming, and Michael Phelps have made me so ready for the glory of people like equestrian Katie McVean from New Zealand, above, who, in individual jumping, came in 71st place. In other words, the kind of folk Jonathan Crowe “celebrates” on DFL, a blog about the lame-O’s who ranked, as he puts it, “Dead F%$@in’ Last” in their Olympic sport.

Needless to say, the stories behind their losses are fascinating as those of the medalists who crushed them mercilessly:

Brazilian cyclist Luciano Pagliarini was suffering from kidney stones.

British diver Blake Aldridge blamed his synchronized diving partner, 14-year-old Tom Daley, for their last-place finish after Daley “popped off” on Aldridge for talking to his mother on his cellphone during the competition.

South African kayaker Sibonso Cele capsized his canoe and missed a gate in his first run, but put in a clean run the second time around.

Hiroshi Hoketsu’s horse was apparently discombobulated by a passing airplane.

Notes Crowe,

If you haven’t heard any of these stories, I’m not surprised. Last-place finishers only make the news in their home countries, their hometown papers expressing their sympathy while their national media whines about lost medals. Sometimes not even then.

The only times a last-place finish generates international attention is when it’s relevant to a national team’s chances (“We would have lost except for …”) or truly spectacular in its own right. Usually that’s the kind of media coverage no one wants.

It’s part of a larger problem: media coverage can be so overwhelmingly focused on the home team that the big picture is missed. Events in which your country has no chance are ignored. Gold medallists from other countries are only shown to explain why your country’s competitor came in 12th (this actually happened with the CBC’s coverage of the men’s hammer throw). And you’ll almost never hear someone else‘s anthem played at the podium.

In the ancient Olympics, says one scholar, “the shamed losers, according to the poet Pindar, would ‘slink through the back alleys to their mothers.'” Would that today’s failed contestants were so lucky.



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