February 18, 2010
By: Evan J. Thomas
Let’s start of by saying that I am not a Lindsey Vonn hater. The 25-year-old statuesque blond with model looks is a world-class skier with all world talent. Vonn is competing against the best of the best that the world has to offer. But wait a minute! Has Vonn become the subject of an over exaggerated shin injury so the NBC brass and the US Media could hype up the darling of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics for ratings?
We know the Olympics are all about the drama of competition. We see the way the media has to have a dramatic story behind every competitor and their rise to stardom from the small towns, the farms, or the hardships that they grew up with to get to this point. Was anyone really THAT interested in watching the women’s downhill until hearing of the potential set back to Vonn?
We first heard the reports about 2 weeks ago that Vonn had a serious shin injury that may potentially keep her out of the Olympics. All skiers have nagging injuries whether it’s back stiffness, knee, ankle, joints or just bumps and bruises from training. Does anyone really think that the shin injury would have stopped Vonn from pursuing her Olympic dream? With all the grueling hours of training would an injury like this really hold Vonn back from competing in the biggest moment in her career? I think not.
We all recall the image of Curt Shilling and the bloody sock and what he had to overcome to pitch in the 2004 World Series. This time we have Lindsey Vonn sitting at the Olympic podium discussing the probability of her being able to overcome the injury and compete in the games as throngs of reporters scribbled every word and flash bulbs from dozens of photographers snapped away.
Since Vonn has underperformed in previous Winter Games and has never won gold, could the injury be a potential excuse in case she failed? She had talked about the pressure of performing and how she relished it; how she was so deeply aware of Bode Miller’s hype-and-collapse in Turin, and how she would make sure his failures did not happen to her. If she overcame the injury and won gold she would become an iconic figure in the Winter Games. This is exactly what NBC wants!
So it came down to Wednesday’s showdown on the bumpy and blood stained Franz’s run. A handful of competitors met their match on the hill as they lost control and wiped out one by one before Vonn’s attempt at Olympic Gold. Vonn furiously raced down the slopes, gliding and weaving her way to the finish line while hundreds of flag waving and cowbell ringing family and fans cheered her every move. Vonn crossed the finish line and collapsed on the sun-drenched snow in sheer delight of her accomplishment. Her championship time was 1:44.19, but her winning time was secondary to the grinding competition of the day. Vonn embraced her husband and cried for several moments as TV cameras and photographers fixed their lenses on her every move.
Vonn showed no signs of discomfort during her gold medal run. “My shin was killing me but I somehow found the aggression and intensity I needed to have a good run,” Vonn said. “When I crossed the finish line and seeing my name up there at No. 1 it was overwhelming, was the best feeling of my life.” As she stood during the medal ceremony Vonn had tears of joy in her eyes as the gold medal was placed around her. It was a gritty performance from Vonn nonetheless.
I am not taking anything away from her as a competitor, though I can question how all this was manipulated to the Olympic viewers by NBC and the media. Vonn will go down in history as a fighter and vicious competitor. She will be offered million dollar endorsement deals. We will be subject to her hocking products on various commercials like moisturizers, hair products and dietary supplements. Her blond locks and good looks will be gracing the pages of every major magazine. She will be the subject on every major talk show as she discusses her personal and professional setbacks. Vonn’s talents made her a sports figure, but the media has made her a household name.
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