- 5 years ago
- Wedding: October 2012
Okay, I’m a giant swimming nerd, so I was pretty scandalized to see this news story today: http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-michael-phelps-tyler-clary-20120710,0,3489509.story
In a nutshell, Tyler Clary, who is probably the 3rd-best all-around American male swimmer at the moment, behind Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, had a little bitch-fest with a reporter about Phelps. According to Clary, Phelps doesn’t work as hard as Clary himself does, takes his talent for granted, and slacks off on his training. Yet has still managed to collect 16 Olympic medals and god only knows how many American/world/other international medals, while Tyler (who is four years younger) has only recently started to rack up some impressive podium appearances.
Aside from the fact that it’s incredibly unsportsmanlike to smear another competitor like that, what’s so ridiculous is that even if what Tyler’s saying is true, it still doesn’t matter. Even if Phelps hasn’t always worked as hard as he *could* have, he’s still entitled to respect for every single one of his accomplishments, because he still did the work and won the races to earn them. Even if the work he did was–allegedly–less grueling, or less consistent, than the work done by the people who lost to him, he still WON. Life doesn’t give you merit badges for “most effort,” it gives you merit badges for results.
And Clary should know better than anyone that when you’re an athlete, it doesn’t just come down to “hard work.” Some people just ARE more talented than other people; some people, like Phelps, have unusual physical characteristics that optimize their ability to perform. Some people are stronger, some people are taller. The guy who won the 100 m backstroke at the Olympic Trials (and is very likely to win in London), is 6’8″ tall. So do the guys who’ve lost, and will lose, to Matt Grevers get to bitch about how unfair it is that they’ve worked so hard but can never make up for the fact that he’s 6 or 7 inches taller than they are?
I just find it incredibly childish. We place such a premium on hard work in our society, and rightly so. But the truth is some of the most brilliantly successful people out there have succeeded as much through their natural abilities as through their effort–ESPECIALLY athletes–and it isn’t right to diminish their achievements because it wasn’t as difficult for them as it was for others. That’s the definition of being gifted, it means you have a natural innate talent that other people lack.