The Olympics bring out the best in competition and sports. So far, in the week since the games began, we've seen some powerful performances, and some powerful examples of grace and class under pressure.
Unfortunately, we've also seen the opposite. Internationally, Americans don't have the greatest reputation. The conduct of our Women's National Soccer Team goalkeeper, Hope Solo, following yesterday's loss will do us no favors.
The Americans are the reigning World Cup champions, and were expected to contend for, and win, the Gold Medal. Instead, the Americans lost in penalty kicks to Sweden in yesterday's qualifying round and were eliminated. The loss was a blow to America, but far more egregious was the comments and actions of Solo.
Of the loss she said: ""We played a creative game. We had many opportunities on goal. We showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team. We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that. Sweden dropped back. They didn't want to open play. They didn’t want to pass the ball around. They didn’t want to play great soccer, entertaining soccer. It was a combative game. A physical game. Exactly what they wanted. Exactly what their game plan was. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. I think it was very cowardly. But they won, they’re moving on. And we’re going home."
There's sour grapes, then there's what Solo said following the game. After being roundly criticized, she brushed it off saying she has a hard time with losing and "I'm not very good at it." That's probably true of many elite athletes, but that's no excuse for trashing another country in your remarks following the game. You couldn't get it done on the field, period. No matter how you felt about the style of play, that's no excuse for such callous statements.
Solo has been roundly criticized by many, including the head of American soccer. At 35 years old, having been the U.S. goalkeeper since 2000, she was probably nearing the end of her national team career. This was likely her last Olympics, but her comments have most certainly made that official.
The United States, through seven days of competition, leads the Olympics with 50 medals, including 29 in swimming alone. It's been a great games, and the United States has been dominant. Seeing the women lose in soccer was a disappointment — for them as well as us fans — but seeing the conduct of Solo was a bigger disappointment.
Win or lose, the greatest athletes comport themselves with grace and class. Sometimes it's not your day. Sometimes things don't go your way. The only thing you can control is your response. In the midst of a glorious Olympic games it's sad that our delegation, and our reputation as a nation, has been tarnished by someone who forgot what sportsmanship really means.