There is a noted distinct difference in the emotional reactions of elite athletes who finish second and those who finish third, according to researchers.
After coming third in the 100-meter men's breaststroke finals this week, American Brendan Hansen was beaming and said "this is the shiniest bronze medal you will ever see".
Advertisement"Silver medalists may torment themselves with counter-factual thoughts, of 'If only...' or 'Why didn't I just'," Discovery News quoted the researchers writing in a study published after the 1992 Olympics.
"Bronze medalists, in contrast, may be soothed by the thought that, 'At least I won a medal'," they wrote.
In Hansen's case, reaching the podium was even sweeter because he'd finished in fourth place in Beijing.
In contrast, Viktoria Komova had a meltdown after she learned of her silver medal in the all-around gymnastics competition.
In team sports, the explanation might seem obvious - the gold and silver medals are decided in the final match, so silver medalists leave on a losing note, whereas the bronze medalists play in a separate match and leave on a victorious note.
But even when the researchers left out those particular setups, the effect remained.
"Finishing second is truly a mixed blessing. Performing that well provides a number of direct benefits that increase our well-being: recognition from others, boosts to self-esteem, and so on," the researchers wrote.
"At the same time, it can indirectly lower satisfaction by the unfortunate contrast with what might have been," they added.
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