Losing the Gold

For most Olympics viewers, winning a silver medal at the Games would seem pretty impressive. For the silver medalists themselves, however, their feat can be disappointing. Victoria Medvec, a psychologist, studied Olympians and found that bronze medalists are actually happier than silver medalists, who dwell on thoughts about “what might have been.” Bronze medalists are simply happy they made the podium at all. Medvec points to a 1996 Nike ad which sums up the disappointment many silver medalists feel: “You don’t win silver – you lose gold.” (HT: Marginal Revolution) [%comments]


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  1. Spencer says:

    Too true. It goes deeper than the podium though. In a race such as cycling or running where the field can have 100+ participants there are several good places to get; ones that seem satisfying, and other bad ones; placings that leave you feeling like you missed out. The good: 1,3,5,10,15,20. The bad: 2,4,6,11,16,21. In the first group you earned your spot on the podium, or top 5, or top 10, or top 15 etc. In the second group you lost the gold, missed the podium, missed top 5, missed top 10, 15, 20.

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  2. Mark Wolfinger says:

    Silver and bronze medals are absurd awards.

    You either WIN or you don’t. It is a competition.

    It’s gold or nothing.

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  3. Mishra says:

    Well, “Second is always a very difficult position to be at. ” It attracts no spotlight and a lot of criticism.

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  4. Ricky Bobby says:

    If you ain’t first, you’re last.

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  5. David L says:

    Great work Dr. Medvek, but Seinfeld beat you to it by about 12 years.

    “…when you win that silver it’s like, ‘Congratulations, you *almost* won. Of all the losers, YOU came in first of that group. You’re the number…one…loser. NO ONE lost ahead of you!’ “

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  6. David says:

    Jerry Seinfeld had a bit exactly about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyIl_iVTxy4 It’s funny because it really is true.

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  7. DMan says:

    These people are elite athletes. They train from a young age to be as good at what they do as they are. If they can make second place in an overall Olympic event thats an amazing feat in my opinion.

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  8. Paul Clapham says:

    I was at one of the “victory ceremonies” for the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, and I noticed that the bronze medal winners looked the happiest of all three medallists. Even happier than the gold medallists, I think.

    But my study is a lot less well-organized than hers. Clearly more investigation is required.

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