It's the winning, not the taking part that counts
Great champions always speak a language that sets them apart from the rest.
Late on Friday night when I spoke to Sir Steve Redgrave about this weekend's sporting bonanza and how Britain might fare, he made it clear that what matters to him was winning gold medals.
The total medals haul did not concern him, he would rate British performances on the basis of how many golds were won.
And I am beginning to think that the Chinese are learning that in competitive sport anything less than winning gold is just not good enough.
On Monday when Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold at the Olympics, China's Zhu, who was defending his gold, burst into tears. He had won silver but as he put it, "I don't know what's going on. My mind went blank."
This is not the first time a Chinese gold medal hope has broken down in this way. It happened on the first day of the competition when the Chinese shooter, Du Li, failed to win and was inconsolable. China had invested a lot of emotional capital in her becoming the first gold medalist of these Games.
Many have seen this as confirmation the enormous pressure put on the Chinese athletes at these Games. They have to succeed, otherwise, to use the old communist phrase, they are consigned to the dustbin of history.
The subtext of this explanation for weeping, is that it proves that the Chinese are different. Their regime is such they supposedly put their sportsmen and women under intolerable pressure, something, of course, we in the West would never do, or so it is believed.
And, of course, when they fail they cannot cope with it.
But is it not possible that the tears prove the exact opposite? That the Chinese are becoming more like us, acquiring the winning mentality that we in the West value so highly. Could not the tears represent the tears of athletes who believe that winning is everything, attitudes sportsmen and women from countries like America and Australia are said to have in spades and which explain their success in world sports.
The Australian belief that all that matters is winning is well known.
I shall always cherish the put-down an Australian supporter gave to an Indian cricket fan just after the 2003 Cricket World Cup final in Johannesburg.
The Australians had smashed the Indians that day but the Indian supporter took consolation from the fact that India had finished as runners up.
The Australian supporter turned round and told the Indian with a contempt in his voice that I shall never forget, "Mate, you know what a runner up is? It means you are the first loser."
Now you may think this is the exact antitheses of the Olympic spirit. Surely it is all about competing , not winning?
Don't you believe it.
Olympic winners like Michael Phelps want to win come what may. I am not saying they will cheat to win, but they see victory as defining their Olympic moment. Just taking part does not count And, of course, that winning mentality is crucial to success.
At the highest level of sport the difference in ability between a gold medalist and a silver, or a bronze is very rarely that great. But a belief that victory is everything can often separate the good, even the very good, from the great.
In my experience Indians, who consistently under-achieve in sports, do not have such a belief. They often console themselves by taking comfort in a heroic defeat when a true champion would be railing against it and asking why was the defeat not turned into victory.
The British, too, have in the past tended to suffer from that; glorifying defeat rather then questioning it.
If I read the Chinese tears right then this country, which so admires America, is trying to acquire the American belief in winning.
And as if to demonstrate this, five days after her initial tears Du was again in tears but these were tears of joy as she won a women's 50m rifle 3 position gold.
Her earlier tears were, she said, a spur to her success.
Chinese attitudes may not be the only ones changing.
Rebecca Adlington could easily have been satisfied with one gold but was clearly not. For good measure she smashed the world record in winning the second. There can be little doubt she has that winning attitude that all great champions have.
The extent of the success of the British team in these Olympics will show much of this Adlington effect has spread to the other British competitors. And how much of that old attitude that a defeat can be dressed up as heroic, and somehow compensate for not winning, has finally disappeared.