Life lessons from the London 2012 games: Losing on purpose in badminton will get you disqualified. Losing on purpose in cycling will get you gold.
While teams from Korea and China were bounced from their tournament due to their efforts to lose, a cyclist from Britain intentionally crashed during the team sprint to get a restart and ultimately a gold medal.
And he admitted it.
Philip Hindes, a British racer by way of Germany, took a dive for the Brits to get a restart in their team sprint when it was apparent that their slow start would prevent them from winning their final. In cycling an early crash allows you to earn the do over. The do over can get you a medal. A big, shiny gold one.
“So I crashed, I did it on purpose just to get the restart, just to have the fastest ride. It was all planned really,” said Hindes.
In track cycling the rules dictate that in the event of an early crash, teams can restart their race and the UCI, when contacted by AFP, said the result would stand.
At the world championships in Melbourne Hindes, however, was blamed for an infringement in the same event which led to Britain’s relegation.
The 19-year-old said that, with so much at stake in the London Olympic velodrome, he had talked over such scenarios with the British team.
“When that happens you can lose so much time… my only chance was to crash and get the restart,” said Hindes, who admitted that neither Hoy nor Kenny had been fazed by his actions.
“I think they knew I’d done it on purpose,” he said. We were speaking yesterday,that if anything happens someone has to crash. So I did it.”
Now, let’s consider this for a moment in relation to BadmintonGate. If you want to walk the path of morality and argue that the badminton pairs ought to be disqualified for manipulating their standing, a British cyclist admittedly taking a dive for the greater good ought to carry the same punishment. Anything else is nonsense.
I’m not one to pretend that the ‘Olympic spirit’ or whatever it is termed every four years is a legitimate concept. It’s not. The moral high ground in the context of competition is pointless and patronizing. It all boils down to winning and, as we’ve seen time and again, people will do whatever it takes to win, regardless of whether or not it involves cheating, manipulating loopholes or even taking out their opponents.
Four years is an awful long time to train and leave empty handed so you better believe that they’ll come after that medal with everything they’ve got. It’s human nature, and that’s where the conceptual debate stops.
The competition structures need to be altered in such a way that they insulate the games against these transgressions. Third party pundits will bemoan the badminton players for not giving their all in an effort to be the best at all times, but what of the players complaints that the system necessitates these types of maneuvers. French cyclists are on a shorter podium step because Team GB flopped. In a sensible world the course of events would be: If you fall in a cycling race, too bad, your Olympics is done, try again next time. No restart for you.
It’s tough, but it’s fair. Find a system that works and the rest will take care of itself.
If we are to uphold our illusions of a quality competitive structure that brings out the best in each athlete, rules need to be clear, unflinching and consistent. Taking a dive is just that, regardless of what sport you’re taking part in. A soccer player can flop for the right to a game winning penalty, and as we know, that results in public ridicule. The end result is the same. You’re selling yourself out for the win, and if this is something to be eliminated, eliminate it.
The difference between a national hero and a national embarrassment can be as simple as what sport they play, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be that way.