In 1998, all eyes–or at least those of figure skating fans–looked to Michelle Kwan to win gold in Nagano. She didn’t, and she got slammed for it. So many commentaries were focused on how she’d lost her chance at gold, she let it slip away, it was hers to lose, and so on. I can only imagine what would have happened with today’s social media, where so often people seem to think a keyboard and a screen is an excuse to forget any kindness.
Oh wait, it is happening.
Patrick Chan, World Champion and Canada’s hope for a gold in men’s skating, didn’t win–just like the half-dozen great Canadian World Champion skaters ahead of him.
Sure, that’s disappointing. I watched him skate. I winced when he fell. I’d have loved to see the Canadian flag raised in the centre position for that event. I’ve been watching for it for as long as I can remember.
But here’s the thing–not one of the men had a great skate that day. Oh, there were some great moments, plenty of quad and triple jumps, an inspiring comeback after what could have been a disastrous fall, some interesting spins and a variety of programs, some more successful than others.
But no one had a great skate.
There’s much about the Olympics I enjoy–seeing athletes who have poured everything they have and then some into being the best they can be for such a time as this is one of them. It’s beautiful to watch people who excel at something, showing it to others. There’s also much I dislike intensely–knowing for example, how much money goes into creating an international extravaganza of just a few days when that same money could be redirected to help people struggling for food and shelter.
What I disagree with more than anything though, is this ‘right’ we feel we have to freely criticize something we are not willing to do ourselves, and to do so with vitriol. In the case of skating, some of the articles I read were from people who Do.Not.Skate.
It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that many of them never did.
One of the things we humans do so well is judge people, even if we know absolutely nothing about them. Is it any wonder, with this kind of pressure, that we have kids bullying each other (and themselves) just to fit in? We set ridiculous standards that WE can’t meet, and then expect others to, and when they can’t, we turn on them. How different it would have been if Patrick’s skate had resulted in a gold medal. He’d have been on the front page of every paper, our hero, and we would be amazed at what he’d accomplished.
It’s rare I remember interviews people do. But in 1998, Michelle Kwan said something that has resonated with me ever since. Its oft been quoted, so perhaps you’ve heard it too. With composure and grace, she said “I didn’t lose the gold. I won the silver.”
I thought it was a brilliant reframing and sixteen years later, I still do. It’s reminded me that giving our best–whatever our best is for that particular day–is all we can ask of ourselves. It’s all we should ask too, and it’s all that God asks of us.
Patrick Chan won the silver. He achieved something few people do.
And I for one was just as proud to see our maple leaf flying a wee bit left of centre.
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.
Matthew 7: 1-3 The Message