Lessons in how to lose in style

China collectively dropped into a state of despair yesterday. When Liu Xiang, the defending Olympic champion, pulled a hamstring in a false start to his 100m hurdles heat, the nation limped off with him.

Xiang and basketball giant Yao Ming are the face of the Games for China. Xiang was expected to provide the perfect gift to the nation in his final.

These Games have brought us graphic, vastly different images of individual despair, too.

Consider Greco-Roman wrestler Ari Abrahamian, triple jumper Hrysopiyi Devetzi and shooter Matthew Emmons.

Abrahamian, the Armenian-born Swedish grappler, had his bronze medal removed by the International Olympic Committee after kicking up a stink over the judging of his semi-final loss. He had to be restrained from body slamming the officials. These are men best argued with from a distance.

He clearly has not been reading his Rudyard Kipling lately, the bit about treating the twin imposters of triumph and despair with an even hand.

Consider next Devetzi. She hurtled down the track for her final leap, striving for the silver medal, if only she could squeeze out an extra few centimetres. She made a hash of it, whereupon she burst into tears and ran into the arms of her coach.

Soon after, the bronze medal secured, she was gallivanting round the National Stadium track, Greek flag draped over her shoulders doing cartwheels. Despair to delight in minutes.

And finally consider American rifleman Emmons.

In Athens, with the gold one half-decent shot away, he had a brain explosion, firing at the wrong target.

In the 50m three-positional event here, he had the gold in the bag again, if only he put the final bullet somewhere near the middle of the board.

Instead Emmons dropped a clanger, scoring a hopeless 4.4 out of 10, dropping him out of the medals altogether.

He got a standing ovation. Maybe the Chinese crowd knew his history and sympathised; maybe they were cheering because his boo-boo had given a Chinese shooter the gold.

"When I was getting on the trigger the gun just went off," the amiable Emmons said later with a "life goes on" demeanour.

So not a man you'd want on a hunting trip, then, but a likeable and popular chap who knows his Kipling.

This story was sourced from The New Zealand Herald

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