[Viewpoint] It’s how you lose, not how you win

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[Viewpoint] It’s how you lose, not how you win

Of the many joys of the recent Winter Olympics, one of the most touching moments was watching new Olympic record holder Lee Seung-hoon receive his medal in the 10,000-meter speed skating event.

As Lee stood on the podium, Bob de Jong, who came in third place, and Ivan Skobrev, who came in second, lifted him on their shoulders.

I wonder how many scenes like this there are in the history of the Olympics.

The 35-year-old Dutchman is practically athletic royalty, having swept the title at many championships. Yet de Jong honored Lee, who is young enough to be his nephew, and even gave him a ride.

Imagine how that must have felt to a person who has competed for a living his entire life. It is not easy to graciously uphold another in victory.

Losers criticize winners and make excuses for their defeat because they cannot accept that someone else was better than they were. It was because of the judge, or a split-second mistake, or bad physical condition. Then comes remorse, starting with “What if…”, which locks the person in a real loser’s frame.

However, as seen from the victories of the Korean athletes, including Kim Yu-na, skill rises beyond everything else. A moment of defeat comes to everyone at least once.

I think the true mark of success or failure is determined by how a person realizes defeat.

Only when the winner is acknowledged and the scope of the loss is objectively perceived can someone see the direction in which the next victory lies.

In this respect, I think perhaps Kim was able to achieve her great success because of the wisdom that had helped her handle moments of defeat well.

Kim sincerely shocked me during the world championship in 2008. After setting a new world record in the 2007 short program, she came in third because she fell and injured herself during the free skating program.

She was still injured in 2008, but went through the free skate almost perfectly.

It looked like a sure win, until a strange figure appeared on the scoreboard.

Looking back, that whole competition was strange. Mao Asada won even though she fell right before a jump and did not regain her senses for around 10 seconds.

The incomprehensible score seemed to send Kim into shock. Her face turned red and she could not close her mouth. Her fans wanted her to get up and shout, “This does not make sense!”

I don’t know how many seconds passed, but Kim erased her disappointed expression, put her hands to her red cheeks and started to smile. Watching a 17-year-old girl overcome a moment of defeat that was hard to accept. I felt like I was watching a person come close to a spiritual awakening.

Kim always said, “Third place is a good accomplishment” and “I do not skate to beat someone else.” She did not complain once about the unfair judgments that dogged her until the Olympics.

Then she achieved a victory that needed no explanation.

This is how to overcome defeat.

In comparison, it is a pity to see Asada’s actions since the Olympics. She performed poorly throughout the season, but put on a great show by acting to the best of her abilities.

Yet her best was not near enough to beat Kim. Kim’s victory was complete.

Nevertheless, since the Games Asada has spoken as if she just missed the gold medal because of unfair scoring.

This is not simply a problem of image, but of whether or not she holds the key to success in the next stage.

Asada is, after all, decisively No. 2 in the world. She alone will decide whether she will become a dashing second best or an ugly loser.

*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is a culture columnist.

By Lee Yoon-jung
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