On Being A Loser

Gemma Acheampong at start of Copenhagen Athletics Games 2019

The other day, I was texting a friend about my most recent race in Copenhagen. I was feeling pretty excited and felt happy to share some of the race footage I had. After watching he asked the question most non-track people ask about races: “Did you win?”

Nope, I hadn’t. I came fourth. And I was proud of it. And proceeded to tell him so.

“It was a great race!”

His reply? “Was it? I mean...4th.”

And for a second, I felt like shit. For a second, I really wondered if I should ever be happy about not winning.

But that second passed quickly. In the next second, I was simply mad - pissed, even. Outside of track and field, knowledge about the sport is extremely lacking. Even in the sport, knowledge can be pretty low concerning various events. So who was he to imply that it wasn’t a great race?

But again, that second passed very quickly. 

There was no point in being mad at him or disappointed in myself. Track is a very individual sport, and most days only you and your coach know what you’re working on or what your goals are.

Most people will see the position you came in and leave it at that. They don’t understand the nuances of the race or what the times mean to each individual athlete.

In Copenhagen, I came fourth. Due to delays, I had a 17-hour journey to Copenhagen a few days before. My last race was a month ago in Japan, and it was for a relay, not an open race. There was a headwind in both the prelims and finals. And the final had two false starts before we got a clean start.

Those all sound like excuses and they are, in a sense. But they’re also factors that I’ve got to consider when I think about how my race has gone. I can’t expect myself to be at my best 100% of the time.

100% effort doesn’t guarantee anything in this world. You can give it your all and still lose.

In this sport, everyone has lost at some point in their lives. Everyone has been a loser. If you expect any different, you’ll get a reality check fairly quickly. 

Every loss will drain you and you’ll quickly become jaded. Every failure will weigh you down and soon you won’t be just fighting your competitors, you’ll be fighting yourself.

And there are some people who just won’t understand that. They subscribe to the thinking “if you’re not first, you’re last”. And maybe that might work for them wherever they may be in their lives. But it didn’t work for me and it won’t work for most athletes.

Gemma Acheampong, post-heats of Copenhagen Athletics Games 2019

In track, you learn that the only person you need to measure yourself against is yourself.

Only you know the work you’re putting in behind the scenes. The challenges you have to face on a day to day basis. Everyone can see the numbers that pop up after a race, but the only person who can really understand what those numbers mean is you.

The past three years have been rocky for me. I’ve made a ton of changes in my life on and off the track and finally feel like I’m just beginning to see the effects of them.

So yes, I’m happy with fourth place. For now. That in no way means I’m settling for being ‘less than’ or complacent in mediocrity.

It means I know where I’m coming from. I know what I’m working on. And I know where I’m headed.

I’m comfortable with losing every now and then. Because when I do win, it just makes it all the sweeter.

Photos by Michael Hyllested



I’m currently working towards making another Olympic team. I would love and appreciate any support on my Olympic journey.