This is Missy Franklin, the seventeen year old swimmer who became America’s sweetheart when she won the 100 meter backstroke in the fourth fastest time ever. A great kid with a heart as big as her native Colorado, who didn’t want her parents to accept any sponsorship money so she could still swim for her high school team. According to Wayne Drehs at ESPN:
[Her parents] had sworn they never cared about a gold medal, that their love for their little girl would be the same whether she won at the Olympics or came in last. But now the feeling was overwhelming. It didn’t seem real. Not their daughter who still comes home from swim practice exhausted, climbs into the leather recliner with her father and falls asleep on his chest.
There’s only one problem. That’s not her medal.
You see, she didn’t do that by herself. There were coaches who guided her. There were teammates who cheered her on. There was a very large organization called the USOC that spent hundreds of millions of dollars — your dollars — to be sure she had an Olympics to swim in. There was David Beckham, who drove the speedboat that delivered the Olympic torch. There were skilled craftsmen who tiled the pool she swam in, and electricians that installed the timers that clocked her. The list is endless.
Some may argue that her drive and determination delivered that medal. Well, let me tell you something: there are lots of driven and determined swimmers out there. Or one could say that her hard work, the hours training every day and her dedication made her a winner. But there are plenty of hard-working and dedicated athletes in our nation. They didn’t get the breaks she got, or the helping hands, or the resources that supported her.
So, you see, that’s not Missy Franklin’s medal at all. She didn’t win that medal. She may be a wonderful swimmer, and a refreshingly pure spirit in an overwhelmingly commercial world, but she’s not a medal winner. So all of you that never accomplished much, or never tried to excel at anything, or never sacrificed or never put your ass on the line, don’t feel bad. Because, you see, when no one can take credit for what they have accomplished, then no one can be blamed for their failures.
It’s a wonderful world. And Missy, you have made it a better one, more fun to be in, and you may have inspired a battalion or so more young people to dream large. But that medal? You didn’t build that.