Why Olympic Silver Is Better Than Gold

I originally wrote this article and posted it on a bad blog during the winter olympics of 2010. The content still totally makes sense and is relevant to the current summer olympics of 2016. So, I made some slight edits and I’m re-posting it now on Rambling Fever. Enjoy!

There are various reasons that winning a silver medal in the olympics is better than winning gold. For starters – and this is just a matter of opinion – the silver medal just looks better. Gold is out as far as jewelry goes and silver is in. White gold is a popular choice, but let’s face it – white gold is basically just expensive silver. Not really. But the appearance is essentially the same.

As far as merit, one might argue that the gold medal is the hardest to attain and represents the highest honor in each respective sport. I disagree. It is much harder to purposefully win the silver than it is the gold. Depending on the nature of the particular sport, this can be very tricky.

Why Is It Better To Win Silver?

Although this article was originally written during the winter olympics that were being played in Vancouver, I want to use swimming as my first example. Everybody made such a big deal about all the gold medals that Michael Phelps won in each of the three previous summer olympics. I was not impressed at all. It’s easy to win gold if you are the fastest and most dominant swimmer. Imagine if he was trying to win silver. Think about it!

You have to be aware of your competition and make sure you come in just behind 1st place and just ahead of 3rd place. You can see how this could be a very difficult task, because in most cases these races are decided by milliseconds. If you make the smallest mistake, you might end up with a hideous bronze medal – and nobody wants that! If you ‘win’ a bronze medal, you are not even the best loser of that event. In my opinion, gold is the best loser and silver is something to really be proud of.

Team events are tricky in their own way. One strategy for winning silver in a tournament style team event, like curling or ice hockey, would be to simply advance to the championship match then just let the other team win. This seems like a simple plan, but what if the other teams also want to win the silver? In this case, teams would be playing to their full potential until the final game in which they would just be trying to make it appear that they are trying to win. Imagine the championship ice hockey match where both elite teams skate around for 3 periods trying to avoid scoring goals. Now that would be entertaining!

Events where scoring is set by judges, such as gymnastics or figure skating, are probably the hardest to purposefully attain a silver medal. For obvious reasons, this is mainly because you cannot physically judge what you are up against as a matter of time, distance or real-time score. Take figure skating as an example. If you are selected to skate first, it is nearly impossible to win the silver on purpose. You just have to give your best performance and hope that only one more competitor skates just slightly better than you.

If you are selected to skate somewhere in the middle, you have to decide whether you think any of the previous performances was gold-worthy. If so, you have to skate a flawless performance with one ever so slight error in order to put yourself into position to win silver, but then hope that nobody who skates after you tops the gold performance. This can be disastrous, because nobody wants an ugly bronze medal. Even if you are the last to skate and you know who is sitting in position to win gold, the pressure to make an almost perfect performance could be too much and you might forget to make a mistake and win the gold – the first loser.

So keep these points in mind as you watch the rest of this years summer olympics in Rio. It will change the way you watch the various competitions and how you root for your favorite athletes. It will make you think. As you watch each event, try to come up with your own strategy to win silver, not gold or bronze. Imagine how much more entertaining it could be if everybody were trying to win silver!

If you have some great silver winning ideas, please feel free to post them on here in the comments section below. If you disagree with any of this, please do the same.