The London 2012 Olympic Games may have come to an end, but the legacy of the event that enthralled the world will last for some time yet.
And for Britain’s top broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Chilean gymnast Tomás González was one of the athletes that most typified the Olympian tradition of sportsmanship and overcoming barriers.
In an article on the BBC Mundo Spanish language site, entitled Londres 2012: el cruel destino del atleta que llega cuarto (“London 2012: the cruel destiny of the athlete that comes fourth”), journalist Raúl Fain Binda dubbed González as the “prince of fourth place.”
“Chilean athlete Tomás González, has placed the gymnastics of his country on the highest international level, he is the prince of fourth place, now that the podium was denied to him on two occasions in these games, on the floor and vault.”
On both those occasions the Chilean was denied a medal by the narrowest of margins. His final score of 16.183, on the vault event was just 0.133 points short of the bronze medalist, Ukraine’s Igor Radvilov.
For the BBC journalist “this and other cases are particularly painful, because exceptional athletes are perceived as ‘losers’ in the popular imagination, when in reality, they have raised the image of their sports and nations to a very high level. . . it is cruel because athletes like Tomás González deserve the thanks of their nations even though they return from London with a mere diploma, in place of a medal.”
In Chile, González has single-handedly taken a marginal discipline into the center of Chilean sporting culture, and his performances in London cemented his position as the greatest Chilean gymnast of all time.
Not only is he the first gymnast from Chile to qualify for the Olympic Games, he is the first to have won medals at World Cup events – having won nine, including four golds, over his career.
And just as González’s performances in the British capital were historic for Chile, so was that of his compatriots, Natalia Duco, who broke her own and Chile’s record shot put to finish tenth in that event, and decathlete Gonzalo Barroilhet, who came back from two shoulder operations to finish 13th in one of the Games’ most gruelling challenges.