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Learning To Lose

Duration:
25 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 29 July 2012

Olympic athletes dream of winning, but don't they owe it to themselves to prepare for the more probable outcome of losing?

In this programme we hear North American Olympic competitors confess the shame and agony of their losses. They echo a sense of heartbreak, which is shared by elite athletes across the world.

In each sport the moment when a defeat becomes obvious is different. But in all events, an athlete who doesn't make it to the podium feels a sense of national shame. Indeed, for many even a silver medal is a setback.

Many coaches believe that it is counter productive to talk about losing because it will sap adrenalin and focus. Yet there is increasing criticism from sports psychologists, that 'the win at all costs' attitude is over valued and can have tragic results.

In retrospect many of the athletes in the program admit that they would have benefited from being prepared to tackle the effect of a loss.

Track star Suzy Hamilton shares her battle with severe depression after she sabotaged her own performance during the Sydney Olympics by faking a fall when she realized she wasn't going to win.

Judo competitor Taraje Williams-Murray talks about the sting when medals elude you twice.

Luge gold medal winner Cameron Myler remembers losing by 2/1000 of a second.

In these stories and more, athletes demonstrate that if their whole lives are bound up in their sport, a feeling of loss in an Olympic competition is something they may never recover from.

(Image: Taraje Williams-Murray of the United States on the mat after losing a judo bout to Javier Antonio Guedez Sanchez of Venezuela at the Beijing Olympics. Credit: Getty Images)

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