If you have been following the Olympics, you will be aware of the many triumphs that have occurred. Personal bests, world records, stunning performances; and above all, medals. That’s how it seems to be shown in the media. If athletes fail to repeat previous successes, or even achieve success at all (success in this case being defined as reaching the podium and winning a medal), they are sometimes cast as failures. Competitors wonder if they will ever reach the heights they once soared at, or simply get off the ground at all. It seems to be that a lot of people – spectators and athletes alike –  have the mentality that no medal means that there’s nothing there to celebrate.

Why do we only celebrate achievements defined by media and society? Isn’t the journey far more important than the destination? Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that these athletes qualified for the Olympics in the first place, and the fact that they are representing their countries, instead of shaming them for not getting the result that we expected?

Medals and titles and fancy certificates are great, but they’re not all that matters. They’re simply part of the recognition that all of the hard work happened. A gold medal doesn’t change the amount of work that an athlete put in. It doesn’t mean they suddenly became better because of it. It means that their efforts were recognized, and awarded, and will be celebrated.

It is better to lose with dignity than to win without it, and this is a mantra that can be easily applied to the Olympic athletes. Many have not gotten the result they wanted, or expected, but they stayed true to who they are, and represented their countries in a way that made people watching at home on the couch smile, and be proud of their country.

Gold, silver, bronze, or nonexistent; a medal is only a word, one which shouldn’t define an athlete’s efforts.  You can’t sum up all of the hard work that goes into something with a bouquet of flowers and a fancy necklace; but if those things are lacking, you also can’t discount all of the hard work that went into trying to achieve the reward.

The real triumph is having the experience, and the journey; all of the other stuff is just a destination. And, hey – if the destination isn’t reached, it just means that the journey is going to continue along until something even better happens.