You trained for this moment every day since you were seven-years-old. You put everything into your performance and it’s paid off. You’re standing on the Olympic podium, breathing in the majesty of a moment you’ve waited your entire life for.
And then some teary bloke hijacks the entire thing by deciding to make a very public marriage proposal during the medal ceremony.
Moments after Chinese diver He Zi was awarded silver in the three-metre springboard event this weekend, she was offered another shiny adornment – by her boyfriend Qin Kai, also an Olympic diver – in the form of an engagement ring.
She cried, they embraced, she even pretended not to be weirded out by the Beauty and the Beast-esque rose encased in glass that Kai presented to her. To all observers, it seemed undeniable that they’re very much in love.
But why the need for observers at all?
Once, it was acceptable for such intimate moments to be just that – now, unless you loudly declare every waking sentiment to the world, you may as well not bother. Shi Tingmao, the competition’s gold medal winner and Zi’s compatriot, was gracious in her response to the podium-based faffery, saying “I’m really happy for them, because these years, be it career or relationships-wise, they have had to face a lot of pressure.”
Well, Shi, you’re a better woman than I – and, I’d hazard a guess, most of the population. If I’d spent the majority of my life inhaling copious amounts of chlorine and despairing at my pool-shrivelled prune fingers in the pursuit of sporting excellence, the last thing I’d want to mark the pinnacle of my career would be someone else deciding to get engaged and stealing the limelight.
Even worse, I’d resent being told that having a ring put on it was an “even bigger prize” than the Olympic medal I’d been striving for during every waking moment, as multiple media reports have suggested.
A thumbs up to the crowd confirmed Zi’s acquiescence to the proposal. But when you’re on a stage being watched by millions the world over, are you really likely to say no? Talk about piling on the pressure – it’s the ultimate way to manipulate someone into saying ‘yes’. Cute this is not.
And what about those who come to regret getting down on bended knee in the public glare?
That was the case for Raymond Domenech, the former football coach for France, who revealed his intentions to wed then-girlfriend Estelle Denis in the immediate aftermath of the French team’s Euro 2008 defeat.
Asked whether their poor performance would prompt his resignation, he responded with: “I have only one project, which is to marry Estelle,” which was evidently both a relevant and satisfactory response to the question posed. Domenech later agreed that his timing left much to be desired, telling reporters that his words were “an error in communication. I felt a moment of humanity when I should have stayed cold and professional.”
Cold professionalism is the antithesis to crowd-based engagements, which have limitless potential to go awry.
Mike, 27, remembers: “My friend had been dating a new chap for about six months; things were going well, but none of us had met him yet. The long-awaited introduction was to take place at her birthday dinner – an intimate gathering where a dozen of her closest friends were assembled. Yet, within seconds of arriving and without uttering a word to the rest of us, he popped the question.
“We thought it was a strange joke, but after seeing the ring, our awkward laughs became just plain awkward. She gave an unconvincing ‘yes’ – not that he seemed to notice – and then hit the wine quite hard.”
The pair called off the engagement a few months later, and have since parted ways.
Interrupting key life events with announcements of one’s marital ambitions is increasingly commonplace, and Kai’s grand gesture wasn’t even the first of the Games: last week, stadium manager Marjorie Edna proposed to her girlfriend, Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo, in front of the watching world.
“I want to show people that love wins,” Edna told the BBC after their first kiss as soon-to-be-weds was illuminated against the backdrop of five dozen camera flashbulbs.
It’s a nice sentiment, sure, but can’t love win in the privacy of your own home? There’s a time and a place for marriage proposals – and Rio 2016 just ain’t it.