‘The Power and the Pathos Of The Olympics’

© by Ray Sanchez  09.18.16

Did you feel bad when former UTEP star Gerina Piller started playing poorly in the final round of the gerina2016 Olympics women’s golf tournament? Think how she must have felt. Actually, you don’t have to think about it. The New York Times was so touched by her feelings she was actually featured in a story about the tournament.
For those of you who haven’t read the story, following is an excerpt. It was written by Karen Crouse:
“GERINA PILLER’S tear ducts sprang a leak on the 18th green when she tapped in for a par after missing her fourth birdie attempt in four holes. She cried as she left the green and cried as she left the scoring area.
“On her way to the locker room, Piller cried as she signed autographs for the South Korean fans, who were exultant over their countrywoman Inbee Park’s gold medal victory and quickly converged on her.
“Smiling through tears, Piller signed everything thrust in front of her and posed with every fan who jumped in her path for a photograph. At one point, Brazilian player Victoria Lovelady waded into the tide of people and embraced Piller, whose shoulders shook as she sobbed in her arms.

“THIS IS THE POWER and the pathos of the Olympics. It can take an athlete like Piller, who did not expect to qualify for the Olympics two months ago, and turn her into an emotional wreck because she fell short of the medal podium.
“Piller, 31, was not on the U.S. team until she tied for eighth at the U.S. Women’s Open in July and squeezed into the top 15 in the world rankings. After three solid rounds, she began Saturday’s final 18 holes two strokes behind the leader, Park, who closed with a 5-under-par 66 for a 72-hole total of 16-under-par at Reserva de Marapendi. Piller posted a 74 to finish 10 strokes back, tied for 11th in the field of 60 …

“PILLER IS A LATE bloomer who did not take up golf until she was 15, the same age as runnerup Lydia Ko was when she won her first LPGA title in 2012. With eight top-10 finishes, Piller has been circling her first LPGA victory all year. Fueled by patriotism, Piller envisioned rocketing onto the sporting world’s radar with a breakthrough performance. ‘I think Gerina still had a fantastic week, and I think she made the whole of the U.S. proud,’ Ko said, adding: ‘Sometimes I think we can get carried away by just the results, but I said the Olympics is about celebrating each and every player, celebrating obviously the medalists at the end of the tournament. But I think Gerina, when she looks back, she’ll say, Wow, that was a great week.’

“ON THE OLYMPIC stage, every result, for better or worse, is magnified. After Piller broke free from the pack of autograph seekers, her mother and stepfather caught up and were walking on either side of her. Piller slipped her hand into her stepfather’s, and her mother put her arm protectively around Piller’s back as the three continued walking in silence. ‘We’re heartbroken with her,’ Piller’s stepfather, Alan Stevenson, said.
“What will he tell Piller? ‘You keep working, you keep playing, you keep competing, you keep showing up,’ he said.

“PILLER EMERGED from the locker room. Wiping tears from her face, she said: ‘I think I’ll cherish this week forever. Just taking a lot of positives away from it.’
“She added: ‘I didn’t even think I had a chance to be here, so to come and to be in contention is all I can really ask for. Just going to learn from it and move on.’
“… Finding herself marching alongside the best athletes in the world would have been unthinkable at the start of the year. But on Saturday afternoon, that was small consolation to Piller, whose post-round interview ended in tears.”

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