They say "second place is the first loser", and it tends to show on the faces of Olympic medalists according to a new study commissioned by the University of Iowa. Gymnast McKayla Maroney became world-famous for her unimpressed facial expression after winning only a silver medal at the Olympics, and that's a pretty common reaction.

Olympics Day 9 - Gymnastics - Artistic
Getty Images

Isn't it every athlete's dream to win a gold medal? Yes, and that's why silver often just isn't good enough. On the other hand, with a bronze medalist, they're content because they made it to the dance and consider it a privilege to be one of the top 3 in their sport.

Using facial recognition software, Dr. Andrea Luangrath and her team looked at photos of over 400 athletes at their podium ceremonies from the last five Olympics. More bronze medalists smiled than silver medalists based on her study. Comparison is the thief of joy, says Luangrath, as I mentioned above the silver medalist is comparing themselves to the first-place winner, possibly feeling discouraged they came so close, yet so far away.

A facial expression can be seen as a looking glass into the emotion felt at that time

KWWL, who had the story actually took a poll on this too, asking "who do you think appears the happiest on the Olympic medal stand between silver and bronze medalists?" A whopping 70 percent agreed with the survey and said bronze winners. There wasn't much discussion in the survey about gold medalists' emotions but you can assume they're genuinely happy, perhaps until the pressure to keep it going kicks in.

For some of us, the equivalent to the gold, silver, and bronze medal is Doritos, popcorn and hot dogs so we're certainly in no position to judge how these world-class athletes should feel, just wish them well as the Tokyo Olympics get underway.

What Non-Iowans Think of Iowa

Iowa is the capital of the Midwest! Ok, that's unofficial, but it's my stance. Here's what NON Iowans think of us.

More From ESPN 104.1 FM and 1170AM