I didn’t medal because your pants are snug

Scott Feschuk on blamers vs. complainers

I didn't medal because your pants are snugIt’s coming down to the wire—the Olympics are almost over and it’s neck and neck. Forget the medals podium, where the U.S. is running away with it. Focus instead on the race that’s riveting spectators around the world: who will win Olympic gold in the epic battle between Blamers and Complainers?

Before we recap the competition so far, a word to all the impressionable young children out there. Kids, if you want to grow up to be a Winter Olympian, you need to work incredibly hard, push the boundaries of fitness and endurance, or become a curler. But you also need to set aside time in your training day to prepare for the possibility of defeat. If defeat comes, you need to be ready to deal with it by insisting it’s the fault of someone or something else: your coach, your outfit, your barista, whatever. You need to be ready to blame or complain at an elite level.

Let’s take a look at some of the truly stellar performers from the 21st Winter Games:

The Blamers
Canadian skeleton racer Mike Douglas was disqualified for failing to remove the guards on his sled in time, and blamed his coach. Norwegian biathlon legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen finished 17th in the sprint and blamed the weather. A Russian skier did poorly in a cross-country race and blamed an early morning drug test.

Dale Begg-Smith finished second in the moguls and blamed biased judging. A U.S. speed skater failed to get a medal and blamed the “sticky” ice. Japanese speed skater Tomomi Okazaki finished 16th in the 500-m and blamed “the devils” inside her.

A Russian in the men’s biathlon blamed the snow for his 30th-place finish. A goalie on the Russian women’s team blamed the team’s failures on high humidity in the arena. The British press blamed Vancouver organizers for everything from the death on the sliding track to the weather to—I’m pretty sure—Prince’s last five sub-par albums.

American lugers performed poorly and blamed changes in the location of the starting line. Norway fell short in a men’s cross-country race and the team’s coach blamed the people who wax the skis. Canadian speed skater Denny Morrison failed to win a medal and blamed the Own the Podium program, his teammates and pretty much everyone associated with the Olympic movement.

The International Biathlon Union blamed “inexperienced volunteers” for a series of botched starts. Brian Joubert of France, a former world champion figure skater, finished 16th at the Olympics and blamed “personal problems.” John Shuster, skip of the American curling team, lost three straight extra-end games and blamed…himself. (Kids, ignore this man. He’s obviously lost all sense of what it means to be an Olympian.)

The Complainers
A Polish skier complained the cross-country course has “too many corners and hills.” Canadian skeleton racer Jeff Pain complained that his German rivals had attached magnets to their sleds. The Austrians lost at Large Hill ski jump and complained about the “modified boot bindings” worn by gold medallist Simon Ammann.

Skeleton rivals failed to beat gold medallist Amy Williams and complained about the contours on her helmet. Charles Hamelin failed to win a medal in a short-track final and complained about the noise of the crowd. Several curling teams lost matches and complained they were distracted by raucous spectators.

Evgeni Plushenko lost to Evan Lysacek and complained about Lysacek’s decision to not attempt a quad jump. Lysacek complained about Plushenko’s complaining. Plushenko’s wife complained about the “gross mistake” made by the judges.

American snowboarder Nate Holland complained that the pants worn by his Canadian rivals were too snug. Many foreign skiers complained they weren’t given ample time to train on Whistler’s runs in advance of the Games. Many Canadians complained that our athletes were given ample time to train and it didn’t seem to help.

So it’s a close race: some great blaming, some quality complaining. It’s a shame one of these two is going to have to lose, though afterwards it’ll be great to hear the excuses.

One final word to the kids. Boys and girls, as you aspire to one day wind up on the podium, or to undermine those standing there instead of you, it’s important to have a role model—and I don’t think you could pick anyone better than Elvis Stojko.

Stojko retired as an Olympian years ago, but he came into these Winter Games as though he’d just complained yesterday. He complained about figure skating’s new scoring system. He complained about Lysacek winning the gold medal. He complained about Canadian hopeful Patrick Chan not attempting a quad jump. He even complained about his complaints being complained about by a Skate Canada official. You can’t teach that kind of complaining.

So get back to your training. Ski those hills. Skate that track. Strive to be the best. And at all times remember the Olympic motto: Swifter, Higher, Waaaah! I’m Telling My Mommy!