Triple-jumper Voula Papachristou didn’t travel with Greece’s Olympic team after a controversial tweet.
There’s no pressure like being an Olympic athlete.
With the world’s eyes on you there’s no room for mistakes in or out of the arena. After all, giving up the chance to compete would be agonizing after years of (literal) blood, sweat and tears during training and qualifying.
No one knows this better than Voula Papachristou.
The triple jumper from Greece was removed from her country’s Olympic team after sending an offensive tweet, crushing her dreams and her reputation.
The decision was harsh for her, but laudable in the name of the Olympics.
Papachristou asserted that her punishment came too swiftly and severely. She lamented having been made an example for other competitors.
But that’s exactly the point.
The Olympics commission took appropriate action, showing that it holds good sportsmanship in the highest regard. And that goes far beyond one’s ability to run, jump or kick.
Keeping Papachristou in the games would have only made things worse. The sad truth is, she probably won’t be missed as much as she would have been villainized.
Now the games can run smoothly, without the inevitable protests and animosity toward Papachristou. Now spectators can celebrate the competitors who take the tradition seriously and wouldn’t jeopardize their dreams of with hurtful messages.
When it made the decision to remove Papachristou from the Olympics, the commission upheld the event’s goal of bringing people together in the name of sports. That’s impossible to accomplish when even one athlete isn’t being a team player in every sense of the phrase.
Of course, everyone makes mistakes and controversy often arises around Olympic athletes.
A photo of Michael Phelps’ smoking marijuana surfaced in 2009 and every year, tales of Olympics Village shenanigans pass into legend.
Phelps might have raised some eyebrows (and lost a few sponsors), but he certainly didn’t inflict pain on others.
And that’s just what Papachristou forgot in her careless decision. She was looking for a twisted laugh at the expense of other athletes, and forogt her friends, family, and people who look to her as an inspiration.
Some acts are much harder to be forgiven, and take more healing than an immediate press-release apology can provide.
Papachristou would not have been competing for herself, but for her entire country. She had a duty to represent Greece, and she threw it away in just under 140 characters. She forgot about all the honor that she embodied in her role as an Olympic athlete.
Being an Olympian means you become a part of something bigger than yourself. You become part of the culmination of thousands of years of sportsmanship.
The fact that she is still bitter over her ousting shows that she likely doesn’t fully grasp the severity of her words. Her perfunctory apology was tinged with anger and resentment that she only brought upon herself.
Papachristou is young and has time to learn from this. She can stay “bitter,” or she can learn from her heartbreaking experience and return in four years a well-rounded competitor in both body and spirit.
What an Olympic comeback that would be.
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