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I’m not a sports fanatic by any means, but my 11 year old daughter is a Taekwondo athlete, and there are some favorites in the sport that our family follow.
Paige McPherson, who won Bronze in the 2012 Olympics, is a strong woman of faith with an amazing life story. She’s also so humble and kind—she barely knows my daughter, yet she greets her affectionately every time they meet, whether at training camp or at competition venues. She has become a wonderful role model for her to live up to in a sport frequently tainted by bad calls and ugly politics. Tonight she won her matches at the US Open and will go on to be in the Olympics again. We will be rooting for her when the time comes.
Terrence Jennings is another athlete we greatly respect. He also won Bronze at the 2012 Olympics. He’s a strong athlete, and a genuine person. When my daughter was much younger, she got to dance with him at an end-of-training-camp party, and it is a moment she’ll never forget. He’s another good soul who fights with heart, but also integrity. Tonight he got robbed of his chance to go back to the Olympics; not by a better athlete, but by someone willing to fake his way there, and by refs not willing to stand up and call him on it. This person even admitted to the press after the fight that he cheated, and it apparently didn’t bother him to do so—he seemed rather proud of the fact that by gaming the system he gets to represent the US.
Usually I’m proud of our athletes who make it that far. But I will not be cheering for Steven Lopez, who apparently is unpopular enough that American spectators are specifically told not to “boo” him or cheer loudly for his opponents. I can’t post what I’d like to on his Facebook page because it could reflect badly on my daughter’s coach and team. But at least I can vent a little on my own blog.
Integrity is a fragile thing. So easy to chip away at it, piece by piece, until there is so little left that you can find ways to justify just about anything you want to do. Maybe that’s why my grandmother drilled into my head as a youngster, “Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.” She has been gone nearly six years now, but I can still hear her saying it in my head. And the words mean far more to me now than they did when I was a kid. Back then my biggest concern was general “fairness” when dealing with other kids and in playing games. Yet my grandmother was preparing me for later in life, when children’s games transition into big kid games. Yes, certainly big sports, but also personal politics; at school, church, work…and national politics too (which need a healthy dose of integrity—and fast).
Let’s face it, teaching personal responsibility is not all that popular these days. It’s too easy to just do what you want when you know you can get away with it. The end justifies the means, right? But I can tell you, this is not, and will not be, my daughter’s standard for competition (or for life in general) no matter how tough it gets. She’ll rise on her own merit, or not at all, and thankfully Paige McPherson has shown her that it can be done. And if she ends up getting robbed one day, as Terrence did, she will still at least have her own integrity intact–something that’s worth far more than any medal.
If Steven Lopez has any of his integrity left, I see little evidence of it in his sportsmanship…or lack thereof. But in my humble opinion, if he can’t win by actually fighting, maybe he should forget Taekwondo and take up acting. He could have won an Oscar for tonight’s performance. At least that would have been legit.
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. – Proverbs 11:3
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