The comments go something like this:
(referring to someone who has lost at the Olympics, and therefore did not get a gold medal, or any medal at all, etc.):
"What an incredible waste -- a waste of time, a waste of effort, to train all those years, to get all the way to the Olympics, to base your whole life on excelling in your sport, only to lose at the end!"
It seems to me that children or adults who have grown up being involved with athletics, and who have had good coaching over the years, have gained a good understanding of this issue (at best, I think athletic involvement can help considerably with personal growth). Their response might be something like this:
"It is a joy and an honour to participate in the sport. To play at all is meaningful. To train for something is an intrinsic joy. To be part of a community event, whether at a local community arena, or at the Olympics, is exciting, fun, and meaningful. The meaning of all those years of training does not depend on winning a medal (although a medal would be nice!) -- all that training was an act of love, my life has been better because of it, regardless of any medals."Most of the Olympic competitors were very gracious and honorable in their wins or losses. The occasional individuals who were not gracious were really the only ones who "lost."
Of course, there are issues about financial compensation, future career opportunities, etc. which may depend on winning, in one form or another. And it could be deeply disappointing if a particular goal is not reached, and may not ever be reachable again (e.g. to make the Olympic team, to win a medal, etc.).
But psychological health cannot depend on such things. I don't believe that Olympic athletes experience significant depressions due to losing...because the joy & meaning do not depend on winning or losing, they depend on the process.
Few of us are Olympic athletes, but we all have analogous life pathways...many of us view life success as dependent on some external "win" such as getting high grades, getting into the right school or program, getting the best job, having money, car, house, relationship, being a certain body type or weight, etc.
Provided that an individual is not in an impoverished state (financially, nutritionally, neurophysiologically, psychosocially, etc.), I claim that success in life is dependent on process, not on winning anything. While the pursuit of excellence is itself a healthy and enjoyable process, it ironically cannot proceed if the pursuit of excellence becomes frozen into a pursuit of "winning." Winning will happen, on multiple levels, if a joy of process is nurtured.