Like I've said about ten times on here. People seriously won't remember down the road what you have won or lost but they will remember the person you were doing it. Will they say he/she was a great person or will they say he/she was an egotistical braggart that stepped on people and was a jerk to their partner to win? People may be nice to your face but it is what they say when you walk away that matters.
So, all this long post is saying is learn from your past and don't make the same mistakes.
Which is why its been such fun competing in Ontario with at least 90% of the current cohort. We love to win - I think most everyone does except the occasional saint or self-destructive - but it really is how you win that counts. The usual outcome is an apology to those you beat. And then they do the same to you next time when the roles are reversed. Every now and then one couple breaks away from the pack and clearly has attained a higher level - they move up and on and the rest of us are pleased for them. It rarely happens with pride and it happens to all of us eventually.
As you stress, R, I feel sorry for the other 10% for sooner or later they reach their natural stratus where they are bound to linger if not for ever, for a long time. Only one couple can be at the very top, thats a rarified place. Once you do reach your stratus what then? If you've been mean to your cohort it can be a lonely place and I'm not sure what the incentive then is to continue competing. If however, you have built a cadre of companions competing remains fun and engaging, cajoling each other on and enjoying the friendly give and take.
And, again as you point out, who then are the real winners? I look forward to competitions for two reasons, one to see how well we can do but also to meet, greet, encourage, console and altogether be with the friends that I only actually see on that competition floor.