Confession: I’m a cyclist and a total sucker for the Tour de France. And although I detest Bradley Wiggins’ sideburns (there is a fad that really did not need to be reintroduced), I came to respect him for both his burning performance during the Tour and his willingness to work for his teammates. It is not a common thing to see the yellow jersey wearer leading out a teammate in a sprint, and Wiggins did it for two members of his team.
But then, after winning the gold medal in the Olympic time trial and bringing his total medal count to seven, he said:
“It’s all about the gold medals. There’s only one colour really. It’s number 4 for me, not number 7.”
Number four because only four of those medals were gold. To put it in British terms: what an arsehole. Way to disrespect every bronze and silver medal winner at the Olympics. Way to disrespect his own Olympic teammates, and demoralize them to boot! Their national hero is telling them that if they don’t get gold, it doesn’t count.
Contrast that arrogant idiocy with the attitude of British gymnasts Louis Smith and Kristian Thomas. Their team won the silver medal in the team gymnastics final, but after Japan appealed one of the scoring decisions, judges awarded the silver to Japan and knocked the British team down to bronze.
“For all these guys, their first Olympic Games, to get a medal is unbelievable,” Smith told BBC Sport. “Silver? Bronze? It doesn’t matter, we enjoyed it, it was fantastic.”
Thomas added: “It’s an Olympic medal at the end of the day, it’s what dreams are made of. All I could think about was winning an Olympic medal when I was younger. Silver would’ve been nice but I couldn’t complain at all right now. We’re in London, it’s once in a lifetime and we’ve made the most of it.”
Of course it’s all about expectations. But when second best in the world isn’t good enough, it’s time for an adjustment to both expectations and attitude. I love watching medalists bounce around with joy, regardless of their medal color, and have no patience for silver medalists who look like someone just ran over their kitten. If you’re that upset about your medal color, I’m quite sure the fourth-place finisher would love to trade.
As for Bradley Wiggins, he is a great cyclist. But in my book, he is not a true sportsman.