Would an Olympic athlete or a team rather finish second or third?

A silver performance is obviously higher than bronze but a closer look reveals that a 3rd place finish can be more rewarding than a second.

Someone coined the phrase as unfair as it may seem that second place is the first loser.

In an interview with the Washington Post Tom Gilovich, who is a professor of psychology at Cornell University said “If you win a silver, it is very difficult to not think, ‘Boy, if I had just gone a little faster at the end. The bronze-medal winners–some of them might think, ‘Boy, I might not have gotten a medal at all!'”

Peter McGraw is a behavioral scientist at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

He has a theory why athletes can be more fulfilled with third than second.

“People have a tendency to compare their state of the world and what happens to them with what could have been. The term for that is counterfactual thinking,” McGraw said.

The ultimate goal at the Olympics is obvious, to win gold.

Most athletes never experience that golden moment but often they dream of a podium finish.

Depending on the circumstances third place can have more psychological benefits than second.

Let’s take women’s softball in Tokyo as an example.

Team Canada, ranked third in the world, won the bronze in a thriller after a 3-2 victory over Mexico in its final game.

It was the first time Canada won a medal in softball at an Olympic Games.

Even though they went just 3-and-2 in the round-robin, (with the two losses against Japan and the USA), the Canadian team ended with extreme happiness on a high, achieving its goal of reaching the podium.

The Americans got the higher medal, a silver, but left Japan on a losing note, dropping the final to the host country 2-0.

With the USA losing its last game, it means many of its players felt sadness, disappointment, and frustration in not winning the big one.

The wait will be long for a rematch on this stage as softball will not be back at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Most of the players on the USA team likely will not be in the lineup should softball return for the 2028 LA Olympics.

It may sound harsh, but being the runner-up can haunt many athletes the rest of their lives especially if they have never won gold.

Individually, Canadian Laurence Vincent-Lapointe was thrilled to capture silver in the women’s 200m canoe sprint race but another Canadian, swimmer Penny Oleksiak, was just as happy to win an individual bronze (200 m freestyle) and a team bronze (women’s 4x100m medley relay team).

Having won a total of seven medals (one gold, two silver, and four bronze) at the Summer Olympics, the 21-year-old Oleksiak is Canada’s most decorated Olympian.

Does it matter that more than half of her hard-earned medals are bronze?  Of course, not.

Canadian women judo athletes, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (under-63 kilogram division) and Jessica Klimkait (under-57 kilogram category) may have lost their semifinals but were all smiles winning their last match to take bronze and end on a positive note.

A 4th place showing at an Olympic level could arguably be the most difficult to comprehend even if an athlete sets a personal best.

There is pressure on athletes to perform but none more than they put on themselves.

Setting a personal best is a superb accomplishment and a realistic goal, however, expectations can often be higher.

Even though gold is the best of the best, one could argue that some Olympic results come with a silver lining.


Taking Note:


Los Angeles Dodgers, after trading for Max Scherzer, aren’t satisfied with a payroll approaching $300 million & have a deal with 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. What’s next? Discussions with Curt Schilling?

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

The only way the new nickname for the Cleveland baseball team could be any worse is if it were the Cleveland Guardians of Akron.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

The Vancouver-based sci-fi show Continuum was a time-travel series that originated in the year 2077. Or 110 years after the Toronto Maple Leafs last Stanley Cup.

*Western Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He also is the radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars’ home games.
Hartley has been on the Prince George airwaves since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
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