Black Women's Empowerment

Etiquette 101: Graciousness in Competition

“On the podium tonight, the three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,and that’s all that really needs to be said.”

Kellie Wells  2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist for the 100m Hurdles

“Boom! Just like that!”

Dawn Harper, the 2012 100m Hurdles Olympic Silver Medalist’s response to Kellie Wells statement

The above statements came in response to a question that  Michelle Beadle, co-host for NBC Olympic Games asked the women about all the attention being directed at their track and field teammate, LoLo Jones. The tone of Kellie’s response even gave the host pause and all she could say was “wow” followed by another pause during which Dawn gave her affirming back-up response. While I  do understand the young women’s hurt and annoyance at their achievements being overlooked in favor of their teammate, their attitude and response to the situation left something to be desired. Their response was catty and very unprofessional.


One of the key elements that makes for good sportsmanship if you win or lose, is how you deal with your fellow competitors, athletic or otherwise. I am not sure if she intended to or not but within her statement, it seems Miss Wells was implying that the women who made it to the podium were the only ones who worked hard enough to place.  That is hugely insulting  to the women who did not. Every single olympian who is able to compete at the games has worked hard and long to earn their place on the grand stage of competition. In the light of truth, Kellie’s bronze medal was barely won as Lolo was only a second behind her. When you win a competition, raise, promotion, etc. it is fine to celebrate your accomplishment, you earned it and have the right to shine and relish in your moment of glory, graciously not as a braggart. However, good manners dictates that you show a gracious attitude towards those who competed with you, after all they are there for the gold too and deserve respect for being worthy opponents.

I understand that  we will not like everyone we compete with and from the tone of that post competition interview, Harper and Wells made their feelings about LoLo Jones very apparent. I cannot say I blame them for the tinge of resentment they feel for their accomplishments being overlooked to focus on their teammate who did not win a medal, but even in the face of this, it would have been more beneficial for them if they had responded more graciously.  This brings me to another important point, when you are a public figure, how you  speak of and deal with other people you compete with must be as important as your physical training. Your reputation will follow you long after you hang up your running shoes so to speak.

To find that delicate balance of enjoying your success without putting others down in the process, is crucial. In response to Miss Wells comment, a more diplomatic response to the LoLo question should have been along the lines of, “Lolo is our fellow team mate who trained just as hard as we did for this moment. It is unfortunate she could not share the podium with us this time around. If she trains for the 2016 olympics, I hope she will have the opportunity to stand where we stand tonight. To win a medal for our country is an honor.” That would have been a gracious response to a difficult question, but as it stands, the responses of Harper and Wells have not endeared them to the public and they have verbally shot themselves in the foot. They won their medals, but they also lost alot of respect. It is really sad they failed to remember that the eyes of the world are watching them and what they said, spoke volumes!

In closing when it comes to being a good sport, remember the following:

1. If you win, enjoy your success, but respect your competitors
2. If you lose, take the loss graciously and congratulate the winner
3. Win or lose, never insult, belittle, or put down those who compete with you.

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