Life, death, and the Olympics

diver_wu.jpg Dying and dead grandmothers are in the news at the Olympics in London, leading to questions about whether the romance and media-fed story lines mask a darker side of athletics.

China diver Wu Minxia got what she wanted — a gold medal. What she doesn’t have is a grandmother. Hers died a year ago but her parents and others never told her until after she won her medal this week. They wanted her to stay focused on her athletics and not be distracted by family matters.

“We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong entirely to us, I don’t even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness,” her father told the Shanghai Morning Post, a testament to the win-at-all-costs mentality of some Olympians, their countries, and their families.

That’s something to remember as the TV coverage continues to show as many parents in the crowd as the Olympians in the pool.

Meanwhile, New Zealand rower Peter Taylor revealed his grandmother died on the eve of the Olympics.

“I had an open chat with her before I left and we knew she may not be around when I got back and if that happened she said keep going and do your thing,” he said.

Who’s the more impressive Olympian: the one who won a gold but is too fragile to be distracted by life, or the one who faces the realities of life head-on and competes anyway?

(Photo: Al Belo/Getty Images)