The women's hockey final is a perfect example of why bronze is often better than silver at the Olympics

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • The US women’s hockey team avenged their losses to Canada in three of the past four Olympics gold medal matches by winning a gold of their own in a thrilling shootout.
  • For Canada, the silver medal was a painful consolation prize knowing how close they were to gold.
  • Meanwhile, Finland was all smiles accepting their bronze, showing once again that bronze is often the better result.

The United States women’s hockey team are Olympic champions for the first time since 1998, and they did it by defeating their arch-rival, Canada, in a thrilling shootout for the gold medal.

It was a time to celebrate for the American women as they not only won gold, but they did it while avenging losses to Canada in the gold medal match at three of the past four Olympics. Meanwhile, for Canada, the silver medal was a painful consolation prize.

For those who stayed up late to see the medal ceremony, we witnessed a perfect example of why the silver medal is often the worst medal, and why winning bronze can often feel like a better result for the athletes involved.

For many Olympians, the ultimate goal is to win gold, to be the greatest in their sport, if just for one moment. But after that, the goal becomes just to get on the podium, to get a medal around their neck, any medal.

Winning either a silver or a bronze accomplishes the goal of getting on the podium and forever being known as an Olympic medalist. But winning silver often comes with the added distaste of knowing how close you were to winning gold.

For the top athletes, this can be a huge letdown.

This sense of losing is exasperated in sports like ice hockey, where the medal winners are determined by a tournament.

Because of how the tournaments are set up, a team must win a bronze medal by defeating a team in the bronze-medal match. On the other hand, a team must lose the gold medal match to end up with a silver.

The difference in emotions was summed up perfectly by the women’s hockey final.

Check out the smiles on the faces of Finland’s players who received their bronze medals after defeating Russia, 3-2.

Compare that to the Canadian women moments later. Many of the players were in tears, and understandably so.

Jocelyne Larocque (center) even refused to wear the silver medal as she took it off immediately after it was placed around her neck.

Winter OlympicsHarry How/Getty ImagesJocelyne Larocque (center) removed her silver medal after receiving it.

And it is not a temporary disappointment for many of them either. NBC announcer AJ Mleczko won silver as a member of the US women’s hockey team in 2002 and she explained how hard it can be to “win” a silver medal.

“Every year, the silver medal winning team has tears in their eyes,” Mleczko said. “I’ve been there and there is criticism. ‘How can you be so upset when you win an Olympic silver medal?’ But it’s so hard to be that close to the ultimate goal, to be that close to that gold medal, and fall short.”

Mleczko went on to explain that it took her a long time to even appreciate her silver medal.

“It’s taken me a long time to appreciate it,” Mleczko said. “For a long time I didn’t feel like I had won a silver. I felt as if we had lost the gold.”

Hopefully the Canadians will eventually appreciate their accomplishment, but chances are it will take them longer than the women from Finland.

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