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The Disappointment of Second Place

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: science, Olympics, psychology, second place, sports,

Psychologists have figured out why Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin looked so frustrated last night after she won a silver medal. Her reaction was typical of silver medalists, who are often more disappointed than the athletes who win bronze medals. According to the Boston Globe, “close-call counterfactuals” explain the disappointment of second place: Silver medal winners, like Liukin, focused on how close they came to the gold, while bronze winners focused on how close they came to not winning a medal. Studies have also found that media expectations and performance in qualifying rounds, were determining factors in the athletes’ emotions.