It's not enough. Silver for South Korea. Italy holds on for bronze.
The roof blows as the home crowd celebrates the victory. The Russian skater sprints through the halls to find her coaches and support team to do the same.
And I have a hard time not being happy for them.
Isn't that what sports should be? What the Olypmics were created for? Sure, we will cheer for, and hope for, success for our country. But when they don't, can we not still take joy in a young woman who just won her first ever gold? For the Italian, who just got the first medal ever in that event for her country?
Announcers often talk about the fraternity of sports. When an NFL player suffers a serious injury, the players might as well have merged into one team while he's tended to. Both sides will form a circle to pray for the injured man to be well. So too in the Olympics, do we see so many with differing views cheering on others not of their nationality.
I can't help remembering a prime example of this back in December. The final home game for the San Diego Chargers. It was hard fought, physical, even controversial, but the Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs to sneak into the playoffs. Then, as I'm in line for the bathroom afterward, I turn to a Chiefs fan, a bitter division rival. I extend a hand and honestly say, "Good luck in Indy." He takes it warmly, offers a friendly shake and smile. "Good luck in Cincy."
For reference, by then we already knew that the Chiefs would go on to face the Indianapolis (Indy) Colts in the playoffs, while the Chargers would play the Cincinnati (Cincy) Bengals.
This is true sportsmanship, and what we see in the Olympics. I promise you, not everyone cheering for the Russian, South Korean, or the Italian, were from any of those countries. The applause after an impressive jump, or the groan after a painful fall, is not heard from only their countrymen. All who watch that event are fans of the game, and share the highs and lows of it. They won't cheer as loud as they would for their team, and that's fine. It's even expected. Yet they'll still give a standing ovation when a skater absolutely nails a routine. They'll still offer a prayer when one doesn't get up after a fall. I've even seen the athletes sharing in each other's success, or pain, during a competition. On the ski slopes, you often find the leaders talking away between runs, even goofing off now and then like they were best buddies.
Their countries may not be allies. They may even be at war. But for one day, they share the joy of a sport they love, win lose or draw. With any luck at all, they'll also part ways with a warm handshake and smile, and one will say, "Good luck next time."
And the other will respond, "You too."