Montreal·Blog

'This really sucks': A defeated athlete speaks from the heart

Here in Rio, I have the utmost respect for athletes who speak to me after a loss. They have publicly gone through what they consider the worst day of their lives — and then they have to speak to the media.

After a devastating loss, athletes are often tight-lipped about what went wrong

Canada's Jessie Fleming reacts at the end of the semi-final match of the women's Olympic soccer tournament between Canada and Germany. Germany won the match 2-0. (Eugenio Savio/Associated Press)

"It feels like crap right now," said Jessie Fleming. 

The midfielder on the Canadian women's soccer team sat sullenly at the post-game news conference after the team's loss to Germany in the semifinal. She couldn't hide how she was feeling.

Fleming sat next to a Portuguese interpreter and her coach, John Herdman. Her answers to the usual questions about the game and why she thought her team lost were, at most, a sentence or two.

I couldn't blame her, but I needed a story. Or a clip. Or something.

It's not as if there wasn't anything to talk about after that game.

So I asked her, "How are you feeling?"

Her response was the most honest answer she gave that night. It ended with something like, "This really sucks."

Coach Herdman laughed at what Fleming said, because it was funny – but also because it was so genuinely how these women were feeling.

Part of me has compassion and understands that it's difficult to speak to the world after this kind of loss. 

Here's what the other part of me is thinking: "I NEED SOMETHING FOR MY STORY, AND MY DEADLINE IS TOO SOON TO WAIT FOR THIS."

Job with the nation as a support system

I have the utmost respect for athletes who speak to me after a loss, especially amateur athletes.

They have publicly gone through what they consider the worst day of their lives, and then they have to speak to the media and to the people who are wearing their jerseys and waving their flags.

There aren't many jobs where failure is so public and then you have to answer for it. It's one of the toughest parts of an athlete's life.

Then again, there aren't many jobs that get the entire nation as a support system.

I've said this before: I am not a cheerleader for Canada's athletes. I am here in Brazil to tell their stories, whether happy or sad, even if it "feels like crap right now."

It takes a certain level of maturity and responsibility to speak publicly, or to speak at all, after you've gone through a crushing loss. I could list a number of athletes that have cried before, during, or after interviews in those big career moments.

It's part of what they do. They perform on the public stage and answer to the public, in a certain way.

Recalling Chan's 'bad day'

When Patrick Chan put on a less-than-perfect performance in the men's figure skating competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he knew he had to have something to say to all those who had invested their hopes, and in some cases, their money, in his career.

Chan spoke openly about what happened and even apologized to Canada.  

Mind you, he still won a silver medal at the OIympics so his "bad day" was not actually so bad. Chan is also a mature athlete who understands his responsibility and doesn't shy away from it.

Sure, I prefer it when I have smiling, chatty athletes who always win speak eloquently and make my deadline easier to meet, but that isn't always the case.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

The agony and the ecstasy of sport is what keeps many of us watching and makes those stories that much more compelling.

About the Author

Sonali Karnick is the host of All in a Weekend. Listen to the show on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. across Quebec.

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