While being a great athlete and winning an Olympic medal (or even qualifying for the Olympics) is an incredible accomplishment, it isn't that important. Being kind, empathetic and caring is very important for human beings. That Australian swimmer did something that his opponent probably never forgot as long as he lived.
Indeed, a person may be of questionable character but able to win many competitions. However, competition in more gratifying for athletes and satisfying to watch if it is between individuals that respect and care for one another. Without these things, athletic competitions will lack important characteristics that define human nature.
Who you are as a person is a lot more significant in the long run. I'd rather win bronze than be an individual with a gold medal and a track record of being an awful person. I also wouldn’t mind not having a single award whatsoever. If I’m observed as a well-intentioned player, I’d see myself as a winner.
Winning medals for your country is awesome, but part of the spirit of the Olympics is fair competition and good sportsmanship. I think sportsmanship is one of the best aspects of sport. It teaches people more than just a "me first" attitude. I watch the Olympics for the competition, but also really appreciate the individual successes that go beyond winning or losing. One of my favorite moments this year was seeing all the heptathletes support each other after the final event from the first finisher to the last.