|OLYMPICS 2000 Sydney
|Far left, Brandon Slay, 24, who won the gold
medal a month after the Games. Slay, a
FreeStyler 167-pounder, got the medal when the
International Olympic Committee stripped
Alexander Leipold of Germany of the gold for
failing the drug test. Slay was awarded a silver
medal in Sydney after losing to Leipold in the
finals. Center is GRECO-Roman light-
heavyweight (213 pounds) bronze medallist
Garrett Lowney, 20, Far right is 138-pound
GRECO bantamweight Kevin Bracken, 28.
(Photos by Kenji Matsuoka)
|Gold Should Not Be the Only Goal
Some Ugly Behavior Tarnished Olympic Effort
by Gene Dermody ( email@example.com )
Gene is a former New Jersey high school coach of 13 years, and currently coaches
a local freestyle club in San Francisco.
He reported live from Sydney for both the GRECO and FreeStyle events.
This was one of his daily reports to www.about.com .
I though I understood the purpose of sport. I believed wrestling was
the perfect example of the egalitarian nature of that pure
sport. I believed in the principles of the “Olympic Movement,” and all the mumbo-jumbo that got attached to those principles by
politicians, media, and sponsors. I have always been a patriotic American, and a “competitive” person, not partial to a lot of the
politically correct “anti-competition” rubbish that had become fashionable in academia. I went to Sydney with optimism, and the
dream of seeing my heroes at the Olympics, after having devoted some 35 years of my life to the sport I love.
After watching all the GRECO and FreeStyle matches over eight days, I am not so sure anymore what I believe. I was particularly
distressed with the behavior of the American 127-pounder Terry Brands during the medal ceremonies. Yes, this was just one
incident, time will heal this very emotional set back, and I should overlook it. But this was televised, this was the Olympics, he was
representing America, he had a responsibility to the integrity of the sport, and he had a responsibility to be a role model. Taking off
the bronze medal, and putting it into his pocket was just unacceptable behavior from someone of Terry’s stature in our sport.
You may say that this is the Olympics, that this is not the high school state finals or the NCAA finals, that the stakes are higher,
that the emotional and physical investment is much greater, and that he is “entitled” to accept only the “gold” as payment for his
sacrifice. I just don’t buy it. We have failed as family, coaches, fans, and a society when we permit this kind of behavior to go
unaddressed. As Americans, it is incumbent upon us to set the moral tone and show more class.
Otherwise the sport of wrestling is doomed.
I seem to remember a time when wrestling was much more fun. When the tough competition forged strong lifelong friendships,
and inspired more participation. When did it become so elitist that an Olympic bronze medal is rejected with such contempt?
There were many American wrestling fans in Sydney wearing T-shirts quoting Roman Emperor and philosopher
Marcus Aurelius via this year’s hit film "the Gladiator”:
”What we do in life echoes through time''.
It is an incredibly appropriate quote.
It is a shame too many of the American fans misinterpreted it.
To illustrate my point, just compare the behavior of two bronze medalists: Terry Brands and 118-pounder Amiran Karntonov of
Greece during the awards ceremony. Both had very tough brackets, with questionable officiating, unlucky pools, and very close
matches. Terry was a bitter angry man, who scorned the officials, the fans, and his competitors. Amiran was bursting with pride, for
himself, his team, his country, and everyone in Sydney. He was grateful for having had the Olympic opportunity, and he wanted to
personally hug everyone, as he ran around crying, draped in the blue and white of Greece. It was only a “bronze medal”, but it was
his attitude and sportsmanship that I will always remember.
Amiran will go back to Greece a hero, to inspire many young wrestlers to train for the Athens 2004 Olympics. This is the real
meaning of Marcus Aurelius’s quote: It is NOT the individual or the incident that has merit, it is the underscoring of values that a
heroic legend reinforces. It will not matter what medal Amiran won, very few will remember even his name within even a few weeks.
But what will be said is that some young warrior fought with dignity for Hellas at the Sydney Olympics. It will inspire and teach
future warriors, like an epic passage from Homer.
Overall, the American team was great. It may have lacked gold (save for Gardner and Slay), but it had the depth, especially in
GRECO, something the team has needed for a long time. They deserve our praise, especially the less touted ones: Jim Gruenwald,
Charles Burton, Heath Sims, and Kerry McCoy, who made me proud by not only achieving beyond expectations, but by being class
But why this ugly obsession with the medal count? It is poisoning our culture. A body count does not a hero make,
nor a piece of metal hung round the neck.
A hero is the embodiment of the true human spirit, an inspiration to us all.
When did we stop making them?