Tokyo Big Picture: At the Olympics, for some athletes even a silver medal reeks of failure-Sports News , Firstpost
For athletes like Geno Petriashvili, Hassan Yazdanicharati, Benjamin Whittaker and India’s Ravi Dahiya, you don’t win silver. You settle.
With his body weight hovering around 125 kilograms, Geno Petriashvili is a terrifying man mountain. But as he stood on the podium for the medal ceremony, he wept like a child. All through the ceremony, the Georgian kept his eyes locked on the floor and his palms stuck to the outside of his thighs, like a school kid being rebuked by his parents. So distraught was he by what had befallen him at the Makuhari Messe Hall, the venue for the wrestling contests at the Tokyo Olympics, that throughout his stay on the podium, he raised his hands just four times: once to accept—nay, pick up—his medal, then to take the ceremonial bouquet, then to applaud his opponent Gable Steveson, and finally, to wipe his tears with his bucket-sized palms.
Hassan Yazdanicharati, who competes in the 86kg weight class, is significantly tinier than Petriashvili. But that does not make him any less intimidating. After his 86kg wrestling final, it took three people to restrain the howling, bellowing—and hurting—Iranian, as they led him away from the wrestling mat.
Outside the boxing ring, Great Britain’s Benjamin Whittaker has a casual charisma, a dramatic backstory, a flair for delivering quotes, and a smile that make him a sports marketer’s dream and an easy day in the office for a sports writer. But on the day he won a career-defining medal at the Olympics, he made headlines only for his gesture of keeping his medal tucked in his jacket as he stood on the podium for the medal ceremony.
Petriashvili, Yazdanicharati and Whittaker all went home as medallists. But, in their own eyes, not as winners. They’d only won silver.
While Petriashvili and Yazdanicharati did not talk to the English media in the mixed zone after their defeats, Whittaker was more forthcoming.
“I lost a gold, so to me it’s a failure. I’m not going to celebrate silver at the moment. You don’t win silver… you lose gold. So that is why I was so emotional. Nobody trains for silver or bronze,” he told the British press when quizzed about his gesture on the podium before conceding: “I am sure over the years I will look back and see what an achievement it is.”
Whittaker’s gesture was reminiscent of Ravi Dahiya, who won a silver medal in wrestling for India, but tucked his medal in his pocket as he walked into the mixed zone after his medal ceremony.
While Dahiya and Whittaker were Olympic debutants, Yazdanicharati and Petriashvili are bonafide legends of the sport of wrestling. The Iranian lost the final of the men’s 86kg weight class to USA’s David Taylor. The defeat had come in the dying seconds of the bout, when Taylor got two points for a double-leg takedown to go 3-2 up. Petriashvili, who competes in the 125kg weight class, suffered an even more heartbreaking loss in the final, dropping crucial points to USA’s Steveson in the last 10 seconds of the bout. The Georgian is a wrestling legend, having won bronze at Rio five years ago besides three successive World Championship gold medals.
Of course, not everyone is heartbroken with silver.
For some, a silver is a life-defining moment.
Sailor John Gimson, who finished second in the mixed multihull Nacra 17 event representing Great Britain, put his medal into context by saying: “It’s been a tough 20 years. My class was dropped from the Olympics twice, I spent all my money and sold my house just to be able to compete, which is what makes this moment so special.”
Also read: Vignettes from Indian contingent’s three weeks in Japanese capital
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