LONDON — After the London Olympics men's synchronized 10m platform diving final, the headline in The Guardian read: "Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield miss medal after fourth-dive failure."
True, the Great Britain divers botched their fourth-round attempt, likely costing them a medal. But failure is such a harsh term, isn't it? Especially when you consider (a) the pressure of performing in front of their home nation and (b) that they still finished fourth best in the world.
David Mitchell doesn't think the failure label is fair either. Which is why he's created his own medals to bestow upon the Team GB divers, and other athletes who finish one place short of the bronze.
At the risk of navel-gazing on a blog called Fourth-Place Medal: Mitchell plans to distribute, ahem, actual fourth-place medals.
Mitchell is a bookshop owner in Cromford, UK, with an affinity for Olympics history. Around the London Games, he came to a conclusion: That the competitions have grown so large, it's only fair that the field of medalists should be expanded as well.
"I remember back in 1960, there were about 84 nations taking part. Now, there are 204. Performance levels have become so much higher. It's so hard now to get a medal," he told the BBC.
"I thought it's time this increase in the competitiveness in the standards was taken account of."
So Mitchell is spending his own money to create medals for some athletes who finish fourth, beginning with Waterfield and Daley. They have their names and events on one side; on the other, it says: "In Recognition of your 4th Place Olympic Games 2012."
"I hope they don't find it insulting. It's meant seriously," he said, adding that he plans to send medals to select athletes from all nations.
From a psychological standpoint, Mitchell's on to something. A 1995 study found that bronze-medal winners, by and large, were more content than silver-medal winners, but that fourth-place finishers are crushed with "what might have been." So now, that stress can be transferred over to those losers in fifth place.
We only wish Mitchell had chosen a more distinct metal for his medal. "Capturing the aluminum" has a nice ring to it ...
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