Mom of Cyclist Taylor Phinney: Mourning Fourth Place? Not At All!

Connie Carpenter-Phinney, who is a former Olympian herself, says we should honor the champion athletes, but also not lose sight of the accomplishments of those who don't get on the medals platform.

Connie Carpenter-Phinney, mom of Olympic cyclist Taylor Phinney, did not get as many congratulatory emails as she would have expected after Taylor finished fourth in his two races in London. “Most of (the emails) have also been, ‘Oh, I know you must be heartbroken,’ ‘Oh, I know fourth is the worst place,” said Phinney, a mom of two and an Olympian herself (she won the gold in cycling in 1984). “A lot of assumptions (are) being made that we are mourning his fourth place, which is just not true.”

Sure, Phinney said, Taylor came into the Olympics hoping for a medal and said that is what any Olympian trains for, but she said the thinking that if you don’t win a medal, you didn’t accomplish anything is “misguided.” “I think we honor our champion athletes, but we also need to honor everybody’s story and everybody’s achievements,” said Phinney. “If you do your very, very best … you just have to honor that. It’s an accomplishment.” As for Taylor, she said, “In both cases here, my son had two of the best days of his life on his bike. He finished fourth in both races.”

Phinney, who I chatted with at the P&G Family Home after a barbecue honoring athletes and their moms, said her family has lived through this medal obsession before. Her husband, Davis Phinney, is also a cyclist, and the two of them competed in the ’84 Games. “I won a gold medal and he won a bronze medal and for him, people were just like, would look at him like 'What happened?' 'Well, I did my best,'” she said her husband would say. “And so we’ve been down this road before.”

I heard Phinney speak at the official opening of the P&G Family Home and learned then she is a two-time Olympian (she first competed in speed skating before turning to cycling.) I wondered what kind of pressure Taylor must feel, hoping to win an Olympic medal like his mom and his dad.

“Well, his shoes are bigger than mine,” Connie said, when I joked that Taylor has big shoes to fill. “I think he recognizes the fact that an Olympic medal would put him into kind of an exclusive fraternity, so he does see a lot of value in that because of our experiences, but he also knows that what’s special about an Olympic medal is they are hard to get.”

Asked if she was nervous when her son, at the age of 15, decided he wanted to pursue cycling like his parents, she said yes, but stressed there’s a two-part answer to this question. “The first half is yes, I was very nervous, but the second part, when you have a child who is passionate about something, especially a teenage child, it’s amazing, right,” she added. “And so what you really want is your kid to care about something and to think about something that’s constructive, (that’s) good for him and … so it’s a two part answer, yes and but.”

Kelly Wallace, chief correspondent of iVillage, is in London covering the 2012 Summer Games. You can catch all of her live daily blogs here and follow her tweets on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

The cost of Kelly's travel to London was paid by Procter & Gamble.

Watch here as Olympic tae kwan do competitor Diana Lopez talks about how she never would have made it to the Olympics without the support of her mom.


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