Why bronze is beautiful at Sochi Olympics

The Sochi Olympic Games have been the toughest for US Olympians since 1988, a shift from recent Olympics spent on the top tier of the podium. Good thing our Olympians have shown plenty of examples why Bronze is still valuable.

Andy Wong/AP
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: New Zealand's Josiah Wells gets air during men's ski half pipe training ahead of qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18.

As America leads the world in bronze medals, parents and kids are seeing more of what America's top athletes and the games are made of, finding that all that glitters at the Sochi Olympics is not gold.

“We won third place! Yay!” my son Quin, 10, hollered when skier Julia Mancuso went into wild celebration over her bronze medal.

One of the my older sons rolled his eyes, telling him not to celebrate when somebody wins third place.

“Well, she’s super happy about it,” Quin said pointing to Ms. Mancuso’s reaction, which was on instant replay on NBC. “If she’s happy, I’m happy.”

The lesson here is count your blessings.

The US is arguably in its worst winter Olympics since 1988. “U.S. athletes have won the second-most medals in Sochi (16), but the team ranks seventh in the overall medal count (which is determined by golds),” according to USA Today.

Winning a gold medal is amazing, and this time around we are seeing just how hard a task that is.

Perhaps for the sake of our kids, we need to transcend the blame game being played out in the media, which has focused on places to lay blame, rather than celebrating the athletes' tenacity and spirit.

I am guilty of poking a lot of fun at the games because President Vladimir Putin’s politics make me want to send him down the skeleton in a pink tutu.

As a parent, I needed to pay more attention to the value of these games that can be found beneath the politics.

Lesson No. 1 was right there in front of us when Olympian Heidi Kloser arrived at the opening ceremonies in a wheelchair, knowing that would be her only Olympic event after a training injury.

According to Yahoo, Ms. Kloser's dad, Mike, wrote on his Facebook page, "When she was in the ambulance, she asked Emily and me if she was still an Olympian...We said of course she is!"

Kloser won the hearts of viewers when she struggled up out of the wheelchair to take the long Olympic walk on crutches and won the games without ever entering an event.

It was all uphill for our Olympians from there.

This time around, for America at least, it’s become about the back stories of the athletes and seeing them revel in a comeback from injury, personal loss, or failure.

Reebok’s commercial featuring the theme song from the cartoon "Underdog" running throughout these games has inadvertently become the new Olympic theme at our house. When we hear the "Underdog" theme, we know it’s time for the Olympics. We have gravitated to the underdogs.

Our family rooted for Andrew Weibrecht in the Super-G, knowing nothing more about him than the fact that an announcer basically said he’s not supposed to be here.

“They call Weibrecht the workhorse,” the NBC announcer said while making the race call, as Mr. Weibrecht was not the expected winner. He took home the silver in the Super-G.

Bode Miller, who is a fan favorite, and whose brother died last year after a snowboard incident, took home an emotional win with a bronze medal, also in the Super-G.

Our living room erupted as if they’d won gold, because we related to their struggle.

Perhaps the most important lesson in our house came as the result of what has been named the "Golden Olympic Spoilers Rule." That rule includes the following stipulation – never tell Mom who won.

The kids heeded that rule, but hubby blew it.

After a day spent with my phone alerts, TV, and radio off so I could watch ice dancing last night and experience it in the moment, my husband walked in and said, “We win. Now can you come help me in the shed?”

Quin looked at the old man in wonder, perhaps to see if he would burst into Olympic flames.

Instead, I experienced a very rare girlie moment, so frustrated that I burst into tears.

Quin gave me the one vital lesson to be found in any games.

“It’s OK,” he said. “Everybody cries at the Olympics.”

The kid’s right, of course. If you look at the athletes on and off the medal stand they are crying due to frustration, pain, relief, disappointment, or joy. The NBC athlete profiles and commercials about moms are also tear-jerkers. In this Olympics, we are learning that it's OK to cry tears of joy over a bronze medal. Not because the alternative is coming home empty-handed, but because just the effort to make it to the Games in the first place make the athletes and their families all deserve medals.

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