For Pride and Country: The Importance of Athletes to Compete in the Olympics

By Benjamin Narzissenfeld

As children, many of us have probably shared in the dream of getting the opportunity to represent our country at the Olympics. The chance to put on the Red, White, and Blue is something that would be life changing if I ever had the chance. I could only imagine the pride one must fell from putting on their country’s colors and going out there and competing for their nation. Just getting to go cements you within the sporting lore of your country, and your name becomes a rallying points for all those around the land you call home.

Sadly, it seems as if not everyone shares in this sentiment. Ever so increasingly these day, athletes are pulling their names out of contention for selection to the Olympics. Really? You don’t want to be in the Olympics? Oh… It doesn’t mean that much to you? It important that I note I’m not calling out those who are injured or have previously competed. Anthony Davis has stated multiple times how much he loves playing for Team USA, so if anything it disappointing for him that Injury will keep him out of the Olympics this summer. Chris Paul has already represented us at the last two Olympics, and his decision to step aside for Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving is amicable.

I am talking about athletes like Adam Scott, the Australian Golfer currently ranked 7th in the world. Along with World No. 1 Jason Day, He is one of two Australians ranked in the top seven, second only to the three Americans represented. This provided the Australians with a lot of reasonable hope that Australia would make a splash in the return of golf to the Olympic Games. However, hopes began to shatter with the news that Scott had decided to skip out on the Olympics.

Now, before we go and try to give any leeway, let’s look at the facts. Adam Scott isn’t struggle with form, quite to the contrary he has won two of the last five PGA (Professional Golfers Association) events, and has finished in the top ten of six tournaments this season. In fact, Adam Scott currently leads the FedEx Cup rankings. Maybe he is stepping aside for some younger stalwart? Actually, the next closest Australian is Marc Leishman at 34th in the world. Seeing as only the top fifteen players in the world automatically qualify to the Olympics, Adam Scott’s decision to be a no show effectively leaves Jason Day alone to carry the Australian flag in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

Many of you guys might be questioning why I would I care, and note that Australians should be the ones truly upset about his choice to forgo representing his country. That is absolutely correct, and by the way many current and former Australian Olympians are reacting, it is also very much so true. As reported in the Brisbane Times, former Olympian and Australian swimming sensation Dawn Fraser was one of the first amongst the country’s sporting greats to hit out at Adam Scott, with the scathing criticism such as “Well done Adam, great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfil your own schedule, How much money do you want in life? (You’re) not showing much for your country.”

To address the question of why I care so much, it is simply because that exact thing is not only happening over there, but is happening here, in Europe, and around the whole world.

The top men’s tennis player in the United States, World No. 16 John Isner, coincidently within hours of Adam Scott also pulled out of contention for the Olympics. His excuse? He wants to play in the BB&T Atlanta Open, a non-major tournament he has already on three separate occasions.

The United States women’s soccer team players are threatening to boycott the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro at what would be an attempt at their fourth straight gold medal because of supposed “Gender Equality.” Probably off of the incredible misguided assertion that they could possibly beat their male counterpart, apparent monetary greed is causing the team to turn down participation in arguing a political case that evidently doesn’t hold water.

While I believe the United States women’s soccer team will ultimately be competing in the Olympics, it’s hard not to see the actions of both the team and John Isner as damaging to their representation but also to the sporting morale and reputation of our country. Plenty of American athletes see their dreams of competing at the highest level dashed time and time again. It’s not uncommon to see those who fail to qualify overcome with tears and sorrow, only hoping that they will have another shot to stake an opportunity at achieving their dreams. So in their eyes, just imagine what it must be like seeing another athlete decide that there just not feeling it.

On a world scale, think about how alarming a trend this could become for the Olympics. There’s a certain prestige to being the world’s top international multi-sport event. There’s an expectation that we see the best athletes in world going head to head at the games. With top athletes skipping the events, how long will it be before the games lose that expectation? When will it go from the best ballers putting on their country’s colors to Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili playing in glorified pick-up game?

So much of what it means to play in the Olympic Games is based on the merits of Olympic Athletes and the honor of representing your country. Not everyone gets the chance to, and that’s what makes it so extraordinary. Pulling out of the games flies in the face of these values. At the end of the day, It shouldn’t be looked at as whether you’d like to play in the Olympics, but rather a challenge that should always be accepted.

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