The Olympian is, by definition, defined by the Olympics themselves. Not by the World Championships. Not by the Pan American Games. Not by a World Cup.
The standard can be unfair, especially if you are an Olympic athlete who has won in the World Championships, the World Cup, the Pan Am Games, etc.
As many medals, trophies, ribbons and other accolades former University of Texas diver Troy Dumais has amassed in his long career, this Olympian still lacks that one little thing that defines an Olympian.
Which makes zero sense.
"It does make me wonder, 'Why? What's going on and why haven't I been able to do this?'" said Dumais, 32, at the Olympic Summit in Dallas last month.
Dumais is vying this week in the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials in Federal Way, Wash., for one of 14 spots on the U.S. diving team that will compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics beginning July 27 in London.
He is trying for what would be his fourth Olympics, and first Olympic medal. Success, as defined by a medal, in the Olympics is about the only thing Dumais has not done in his diving career.
"I know I can win a medal. I have beaten all of these guys. I have beaten them plenty of times before....Everyone wants to go for that medal."
In a sport that is judged on gold, silver and bronze, and is separated by the narrowest of margins, Dumais does not need to go to the videotape to remember each time he missed out on the top three spots in an Olympics.
In the 2000 Games in Sydney, he finished sixth.
In 2004 in Athens, he again finished sixth.
In 2008 in Beijing, he completed the rare triple with three consecutive sixth-place finishes in the individual 3-meter platform in the Olympics.
"I know exactly where in every Olympics I have missed," he said. "And do I play a mental game with myself? No, but it gives me another addition to the fire that burns me to push more and try harder for those moments."
Dumais is as dismayed by his lack of his success as any of his teammates. Greg Louganis might be the greatest diver in the history of the sport, but his successors have not been able to carry on his legacy.
Between the men's and women's teams, the United States has won a total of 128 medals in diving, and zero since Laura Wilkinson won gold in the 10-meter platform in 2000.
"It's a good question, and it's a question we all try to figure out," U.S. diver Kristian Ipsen said. "I do think we are on the right track. The last couple of Olympics -- this is an individual sport, but it's been 'all about me.' At least the last few times, we have tried to make this more of a team thing. There is more momentum."
Dumais might be annoyed, baffled and frustrated by the results, but he does not sound like a man who stays up nights replaying each moment, primarily because he has too much else to do.
Dumais, from Ventura, Calif., holds a degree from Texas in exercise science, and he works on the side as a mentor and tutor in computer science and math with the Longhorns football team. He has given up his side gig as a model to focus on his career and diving.
At 32, Dumais sounds like a man who knows that, while he might be able to dive a few more years at the highest level, this could be his last Olympics.
"There is nothing set yet; it does become a mind over body thing," he said. "Can your body hold up and can your mind hold up over your body? I have seen people dive until they are 34 and 35, and ultimately that broke them."
By most standards, Dumais' three consecutive sixth-place finishes in his Olympic career plus a slew of medals in countless other international competitions is not only commendable but amazing.
Not many people in the world will ever do what he is doing. Yet, as an Olympic athlete he is defined by the Olympics themselves, meaning just one medal of any color in the London Games would be the appropriate cap to his brilliant career.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697