sports

When Olympic athletes lose, we see their whole world shift.

Faster. Stronger. Better.

Get up the next day and repeat.

Faster. Stronger. Better.

Repeat for years. And years.

Training. Diet. Coaching. Workshops. Physios. Doctors. Psychologists. Meets. Nutritionists. Injury. Recovery. Start again. Do and dream.

And the dream of so many elite athletes? To win gold at The Olympic Games.

Leisel Jones talks to Mia Freedman about the pressure of winning at the Olympics:

Imagine the pressure. Imagine the body being trained day in and day out to achieve one thing – a particular number in a 200M freestyle race that is simply a failure if it falls .03 seconds short, or a score out of 10 in the gymnastics that just won’t do if you are .1 points behind a competitor.

Mack Horton won Olympic gold. Image via Getty. 

Parents driving you to training five days a week as a kid. In some cases, parents moving whole states to give you a better shot at being the best. Fundraising month after month to get you to athletic meets.

Leaving friends, sometimes family, to attend special "sports" schools. All your focus on that thing over there.

To be the best. To win.

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But wherever there are winners, there are more losers.

Athletes who are just as dedicated, just as driven. Athletes who have sacrificed too. Who have woken bleary-eyed and shivering then driven with mum or dad to countless meets. Who have trained through physical pain. Who have trained through mental hurt. Who get up the next day and do it all again. Athletes who have tried so hard, so many times they might burst those tight skins.

Still, on the day, they didn't win.

The Olympics is a stark display of superhuman glory set against a wash of human failing.

Here are the Australian women to look out for this Olympics. Post continues after gallery. 

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The winners let gold rest against their chests, stand on podiums and watch their flag rise in front of the world. The losers? Well, we don't know. They've disappeared back down the long dark tunnels of the stadium.

For every gold winning Mack Horton, there are swimmers like Emma McKeon. After coming seventh in the women's 100m butterfly final she pulled herself out of the pool and couldn't speak to the journalist, cutting her interview short and walking away in tears.

Or English judo champion Ashley McKenzie, who was photographed crying beside a bin in the arena's back corridors after being defeated by world champion Yeldos Smetov.

Or Australian gymnast Larrissa Miller who, after a near perfect routine, made a mistake in the last seconds of her floor routine that would cost her a place in the finals.

"Any time something like this happens it's really disappointing, I've been training for four years for this moment," Miller said.

The compression of expectation, pressure, four years of training, dedication and mum's special ham sandwiches loaded into one moment is hard to digest.

How do these athletes not crumble at the starting line or stay in changing rooms or refuse to dive off those platforms? .02 of a second and you lose. A foot turned out 45 degrees instead of 50 degrees you lose. Hit a hurdle, you lose.

I love watching the Olympics. I jump up to cheer (and I'm surprised at myself for doing it) during races. I ask my family for shush. My feet run up and down on the spot. I will Australian athletes by yelling at the TV to go faster. Stronger. Better. To win.

But more often than not it's an impossible feat. It is the Olympics. There will be more losers than winners.

When I watch the Olympics and these athletes lose, and they look so disappointed in themselves, and I see their whole world shift and I see their tears, I hope they will be OK tomorrow.

The moment is gone to change today. That is life, even for an elite athlete.

Featured image: Ashley McKenzie/Twitter

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