Fourth place in the world is quite an accomplishment. Most of us would be thrilled.
And at the Olympics, it means you're in good company. Tyson Gay, who has a cabinet full of medals from World Championships, finished fourth in a ridiculously fast men's 100-meter dash in London. Meb Keflezighi and Bernard Lagat, also accomplished veterans, raced hard for their fourth-place finishes. Even that mega-medalist Michael Phelps finished fourth in his first race in London.
Still, fourth can be bitter. We'll see if the pewter medals a fine English gentleman is making will provide any consolation.
For younger athletes or rebuilding teams, fourth place can provide a bit of motivation over the next four years. What more steps can they take to make it to the podium?
These 10 individuals and teams are poised to take that next step.
In Beijing, she was a 16-year-old who kissed her horse after a clean ride moved her up the standings.
In London, she lost a few points in the riding phase but shot quickly and ran fast. A podium place was in sight but just out of reach.
Rio? She'll still be in her early 20s.
It was the strangest piece of timekeeping since the 1972 Olympic basketball final.
Germany's Britta Heidemann got an extra chance or two to land a winning touch on South Korea's Shin Lam in the women's epee semifinal. She finally did.
South Korea protested, and due to the eccentricities of fencing's protest procedures, Shin was forced to sit awkwardly and tearfully on the piste, waiting to be told she really had lost.
Shin was heartbroken and lost the bronze medal bout. But a few days later, she had recovered well enough to help South Korea take silver in the team event.
Would you want to face her in Rio?
Some of the rowers will be back. Some won't. Such is the life of the eight, the speedboat of rowing.
In fact, this U.S. men's eight had some changeover leading up to the Games. And they still finished 0.3 seconds out of a medal.
That's probably an aberration. Plenty of time to fix things before Rio.
Fourth place? FOURTH?! In a country where the oligarchs spend so lavishly on professional women's basketball that the WNBA looks like the minors?
Oh, no no no. That will not do. That will not happen again.
Americans have figured out these middle-distance races. You want to run slowly in a pack and then sprint it out at the end? Fine.
Centrowitz, a precocious middle-distance runner at age 22, just about had it right in the 1,500-meter run final. He was right there at the finish and barely missed out.
Plenty of miles and years ahead.
Fourth in the road race was a slight surprise. Fourth in the time trial wasn't. In his young career, he has shown he has the speed.
And he's already back to work. Keep an eye out as he hits the roads in Europe and elsewhere over the next four years.
"Hey, wait a minute! Didn't she win a whole bunch of medals?"
Well, yes, she did. But she finished fourth in the women's 200-meter freestyle.
Next time, she might be chasing Michael Phelps as well as Allison Schmitt.
Hersey has one of those stories that's made for prime time—NBC's Olympic prime time, to be specific. Her adoptive father supported her from a wheelchair; her adoptive mother recently passed away.
She made the U.S. team in the 200-meter butterfly in 2008 and finished eighth in Beijing. This year, she made the team again, made the final again and came closer, finishing fourth.
Time for another run at the podium?
We'll have to assume that the powers that be don't throw us a curveball and bump men's team foil from the program in the fencing rotation in Rio.
The young U.S. men's foil team of Race Imboden, Alex Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt and Miles Chamley-Watson upset France in the quarterfinals before running out of steam in the semifinals and bronze medal bout.
In the past couple of years, they've put together enough good results to suggest this wasn't a fluke.
The women's handball team took silver. And the men's water polo team nearly joined them, losing to neighbors and former countrymen Serbia 12-11 in the bronze medal game.
Just think where they'll be in four years.